Ambassador voices: Bridget Jones, body image and self-worth
Hi, I’m Helena! I’m 18, and I’m a university student studying Psychology. I’m a GenNOW Ambassador for The Mix, as well as being on the Service Innovators Committee (the SIC). I love talking about all things mental health and wellbeing – everyone deserves to feel supported, and to have their voices heard.
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Bridget Jones’s Diary – it’s a total classic, the ultimate sleepover/night-in/comfort movie. I can’t remember the first time I saw it, but there have been many times since!!
For anybody who hasn’t seen it yet – firstly, enjoy! I would definitely recommend it. But I would advise you to take the film, like any other, with a pinch of salt. There are a number of themes running through it that are questionable, to say the least – binge-drinking, sexual harassment and dated slurs about the LGBTQIA+ community are normalised, or used as comedy. Luckily, things have moved on in society since the film first aired in 2001, and much of this behaviour would be considered a lot less appropriate 20 years later!
However, what I want to discuss in this article is the unhealthy idealisation of weight loss in the film. It all begins on a New Year’s Day, and one of Bridget’s New Year’s Resolutions is to lose weight. Whilst this, alongside quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake, is meant to be seen as the ultimate self-improvement goal, I would like to suggest that actually, weight loss doesn’t belong on a healthy resolution list – at least, not without some serious re-wording.
Weight loss and body image
Many of us feel uncomfortable in our bodies at one point or another. For some, this is a fleeting experience of self-scrutiny, but for others this feeling can linger far longer, causing us to lose the self-confidence we deserve to have.
If you find yourself in either category, know that you aren’t alone: one UK survey by the Be Real campaign found that 52% of 11-16 year-olds worried about how they look, with 35% saying that their body image causes them ‘often’ or ‘always’ to worry. And sadly, the trend continues in older age groups: a body image survey for the Mental Health Foundation found that 31% of teenagers (up to 19) felt ashamed of their body image, and 20% of adults felt the same.
Coping with negative body image
When faced with negative body image, people often turn to exercise and/or changes in diet. And, when done healthily, this can be really helpful. One healthier, more empowering approach is to shift the focus away from losing weight, and towards improving your fitness in ways that benefit your overall health, both physical and mental. This can be done by engaging in a sport, trying a home work-out, or testing out a few healthy recipes: these can all be steps towards improving your overall physical wellbeing, and studies demonstrate a consistent link between your physical wellbeing and your mental health (see here).
It is easier said than done, but try to break down your journey into personal, non-weight-related goals – to run to that park bench before pausing for a break, or to reach a point where doing 20 consecutive sit-ups doesn’t feel too uncomfortable! Your goals should be personally tailored to you and your own abilities. And remember: if your wellbeing is ever suffering as a result of your attempt to become healthier, you are likely going about it the wrong way – try to find another approach that focuses on nurturing your body, without stretching it beyond its limits. Your physical health may be important, but your mental health is just as valuable.
Bridget Jones and self-worth
Bridget Jones does manage to lose weight as her year progresses, though all we see of this is a scene showing her on an exercise bike. There’s no indication that her weight loss is unhealthy, but what is unhealthy is the implicit suggestion that Bridget’s weight and body shape are associated with her self-worth.
Your weight, and your body shape does not equal your worth. Ever.
If there is one thing I want you to take away from this article, it is that despite the harmful messages found in advertisements, social media, and so many other places: you have implicit worth, value that can never be taken away from you, which has absolutely nothing to do with your physical appearance. As the saying goes, “you are beautiful, and that is the least interesting thing about you”. It might sound cheesy, but it’s true!
Body confidence can be a really hard thing to achieve, and it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. I certainly haven’t got all that far just yet! It’s worth keeping in mind that everyone is on a different journey when it comes to self-love and body confidence. However, acknowledging that your self-worth is independent from your weight is a really great way to start.
An alternative approach
I could write a whole other article on different ways you can increase your own feelings of self-worth. According to psychologist Guy Winch, some of the most obvious, and effective, approaches are attitude changes: challenging thoughts of self-criticism, introducing self-compassion, and developing the things you are naturally good at (everyone has something!).
So, perhaps Bridget-of-the-present could benefit from a simple re-wording of her New Year’s Resolution: instead of “lose 20 pounds”, she could focus her efforts on “improving physical and mental wellbeing”, or “working on body confidence”. This way, she might achieve the exact same thing (if this is in her best interests), but using a kinder, more sustainable mindset. After all, you only have to watch Bridget Jones to see how lovely she is (played by the gorgeous Renée Zellweger), inside and out!
- Beat help people overcome eating disorders through helplines, online support and self-help groups. Call 0808 801 0677 or, if you're under 18, call their Youthline on 0808 801 0711.
- Eating Disorders Support has a telephone helpline with 24/7 answer message service and email support for people with eating disorders and anyone concerned about them. Call on 01494 793223.
- If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
By Holly Turner
Updated on 14-Apr-2021
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