When I announced the Body Brilliant deal recently, I said I’d be calling for help. (I actually said I’d be calling for help the next day, but I’ve edited that to say “Soon”, because time ran away from me!)
This is not a trivial, casual call for help. This is serious. I badly need you. Here’s why.
Expertise doesn’t come from personal experience (though that can help sometimes.) Expertise comes from many years of studying the wider picture, the research from all over the world, from many scientists and researchers who conduct studies on thousands/millions of people worldwide. Reading, processing and understanding that work (including knowing when to discount it because it’s flimsy) and then setting it against a wide and deep understanding of human psychology and/or neuroscience: that’s expertise. That’s what I’ve been developing on certain topics for the last 20-25 years.
So, expertise is not defined by personal lived experience. I’m a woman but I’m not therefore an expert in women. I couldn’t write a book about them. I could write a book about my experience as a woman (though it wouldn’t be very interesting) but I couldn’t write a book about women or being a woman. I’d need to do some research first, research into women in general, different types of women. After all, what if my experience as a woman was not usual?
I write books about things I’m expert in, not always because I have the lived experience but because I’ve studied the science over many, many years. I know enough to know what I don’t know and where to find it.
But sometimes there’s a book which benefits also from lots of personal experiences. And Body Brilliant is one of them. I’ll be writing about eating disorders, body dysmorphia, the effects of celebrity culture, body difference, cosmetic surgery and gym culture, obsessions, gender questioning and LGBTQ+ points of view and for all those, and more, the book will be richer with the personal experiences of lots of people with those experiences. I know the theories and how to think about them but I don’t have the personal viewpoint.
That’s where you come in! Whatever your take on body image, whatever your opinion, whatever your age or gender or culture, whatever your lived experience, I want to hear from you.
Here’s what I’d like
Body Brilliant is a book to help young people have a positive body image and better self-confidence and to know how to look after their physical health. I want to include words from young people going through the same challenges (especially in the modern online world) and also from adults who identify through their own experiences.
What I’d like to hear about
I’d love to hear anything to do with how you feel about your body, what you struggle with, what you think the pressures are nowadays and any tips you have for others, but I’m particularly interested in these things:
- Feeling inadequate because of perfect images online; feeling you have to conform to a certain image of “perfection”; examples of online experience that affect your body image (eg Snapchat filters?) Any opinions about social media and body image.
- Pressure on boys – we talk about body shape/image pressure on girls a lot but what about boys? This book and this topic are equally for any gender.
- Eating disorders; weight problems; hating your body or part of it; body dysmorphia (seeing yourself completely differently from how others see you)
- Self-harm, including hair-pulling and extreme nail-biting.
- Gender questioning and challenges – such as feeling you were assigned the wrong gender or being teased because of gender identity (How did/does this affect body image?)
- Different cultures/ethnic backgrounds – for example, perhaps you grew up surrounded by people of a different culture from yours and with a different viewpoint on bodies?
- Wearing a hijab or niqab – does this affect body image?
- Changing feelings about your body – for example, you used to have self-confidence and now you have none; or you used to hate your knees/nose but now you don’t.
- Dealing with a changed body after an accident or illness; physical disability.
- Worrying about a friend going through problems to do with body image.
- Cosmetic surgery – good or bad?
- Dealing with looking “different” – something visibly different about you or something you are/were very self-conscious about.
- Did someone once make a comment about your appearance and you’ve never forgotten it? How did it affect you? how old were you? How old are you now? What would you say to the person and what would you say to yourself now?
- Parents, you are welcome to tell me about any problems your son or daughter has had – without identifying them, please.
- Adults, looking back, what words of wisdom can you offer?
- Older teenagers, what advice do you have for your peers or younger teenagers?
CAUTION – trigger warning
Part of good mental health involves being able to talk and think about “difficult” topics without being overwhelmed. Emotions such as fear, anxiety and sadness are normal and healthy. However, for some people, including people who have suffered severe mental or physical trauma, certain thoughts or discussions can trigger great distress. If you think this might apply to you, please take care: get support from people around you. I want to help you, not make things worse.
DATA PROTECTION and CONFIDENTIALITY
I will take great care with your data (name, contact details, any identifying information and anything you tell me about yourself). These details will only be used for this project and, after publication, all names and contact details will be erased.
NB: I will be using a research assistant (personally known to me and highly trusted) and may also have administrative help from my publisher, The Watts Publishing Group Limited (part of Hachette Children’s Group). The research assistant and Watts/HCG would have access to the personal data but will follow equally strict rules.
HOW TO CONTRIBUTE
- If you are over 18, you have two choices:
- You can, if you wish, simply add a comment below. By doing so, you give me permission to use your words. I would contact you by email to confirm final wording and to check what name to use. I would NOT publish the contribution without checking with you.
- OR you can use the BodyBrilliant FORM.
- If you are 13-17, you also have two choices:
- You can give your comments to your parent or legal carer and they can fill in the BodyBrilliant FORM.
- Or, if your parent or legal carer agrees, you could communicate with me directly by using the contact form at the top of my website. (Again, I will not publish your words without checking with you and making sure you’ve chosen a confidential name.)
- If you are 12 or under, please ask your parent or guardian to send your contribution to me using the BodyBrilliant FORM.
When? As soon as possible, please! I have a very tight deadline. Having said that, I’ll probably be able to add your comments if they come later – up to about February 2019 – but it would be VERY helpful to have them before the end of November. Thank you very, very, very much.
And thank you to those of you who’ve come up to me at school events and conferences recently to say how glad they are that I’m doing this book.
Together, we can make a difference.