Tough as old boots

Take some time out for a long read as Director Richard reflects on Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme of body image.

‘Tough as old boots’ … ‘hard as nails’. We use words like this to describe our perceptions of someone when we think they look physically strong and probably resilient. It’s based on what we see – muscles, tattoos, no nonsense attitudes and so on. But these are never the full picture. We don’t see what is going on inside a person.

We often try to tailor our physical appearance and behaviours to fit in. We care about what others think of us – and this can often be a problem.
Men and women are both affected and, admit it or not, we care deeply what others think of us.

We do ourselves no favours by being judgemental – yes, we may push boundaries, but in a reasonable way. So many inspirational people achieve amazing goals, but for each of them, many more may be struggling on their journeys, feeling judged.

Not all are obvious. That six-foot shaven-headed, tattooed, athlete may very well be fighting their own inner voices. Sculptured bodies do not display depression, anxiety or other mental health issues.

So at the close of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, let’s all take a moment to be less envious of the outer image of others and be less judgemental of those who do not fit our own perceptions of how we should look. Let’s support and encourage rather than judge. People in leadership roles can encourage those at the back of the pack as well as those in the lead. Remember that high achievers can also be highly vulnerable.

If you know people see you as being as tough as old boots, break the mould – show empathy and understanding, listen and look for invitations to engage with someone who may have issues with their self-esteem. Put aside your judgements, look at peoples’ strengths rather than perceived weaknesses, take the time to explore people’s character and understand them.

Five minutes and a kind word from you can boost esteem and reassure to people who may be unhappy inside.

Engage, listen, understand and reassure. It works.