Girls Look Beyond Body Image
Have you ever gone out of the house without your make-up on, and gotten the question, “Are you not feeling well today?” or “you look tired today.” I have! Then I feel embarrassed that somehow I’m ‘offending’ others with my make-up free face. Wait…..that is ridiculous…. why do I feel embarrassed?
The female body image (pretty and thin) is ubiquitous throughout our culture. Women feel pressured by media and peers, to keep up with the latest style, make-up, hair and thinness. Unfortunately, we listen to them and it starts young!
Girl Body Image Stats/Facts:
-50%-88% feel negative about their body.
-58% want to lose weight.
-55% report participating in vomiting, laxatives, diet pills, smoking, and diuretics to lose weight.
-By age 10, 80% of girls report being afraid of becoming fat
-Girls rated “The way I look” is the most important indicator of self-worth, while boys rated abilities most important.
-Body image conflicts leads to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.
Which Came First the Chicken or the Egg?
The above statistics have been increasing since the 1960’s when Twiggy, an ultra thin super model, became famous, setting off the thinness craze. And since then, there is now a plethora of products, pills and diets out there to make you prettier and thinner. Even toys and dolls, the most famous being Barbie, have been design to reflect this image.
Unfortunately advertisers and media still seem to dictate what the female body shape and size should look like: small waist and hips, thin thighs with large breast.
In fact, girls that spent more time engaging in media such as, movies, TV and music videos reported higher body dissatisfaction than girls who engage in less media. So Hollywood definitely plays a role.
On the other hand, we have girl competition. Recent studies have revealed, a girl’s ‘peers’ maybe more influential than ‘Hollywood’. Girl competition with appearance is a very prominent issue.
So is she feeding off the media (‘the chicken’) or feeding off her peers (‘the egg’)? For your daughter it may be either or both. So it is very challenging for parents to cultivate a positive body image when there is constant media and peers scrutinizing appearances.
Words of Wisdom from Inspiring Women
Amy Jo Clark a.k.a ‘Daisy’ from the WIBC radio show ‘Chicks on the Right’ has noted, unlike male-hosted political talk shows, her and ‘Mock’, radio co-hostess, will frequently get internet trolls attacking their appearance in hopes to destroy their confidence. But these people do not shake her. “It is better to be smart than to be beautiful. It is better to be funny than pretty.” Amy goes on to say, “the body is a shell for your soul. The soul is what matters”.
She is also a parent and feels the ‘key’ to helping her daughter have a positive body image is-communication. Conversations about having a good character and how you treat others is what is important.
DeVyn Barker a Greenwood High School graduate, former college softball player and at one time owned a fitness gym for young girls in Indianapolis. She worked with them on physical training to improve athletic skills and fitness. DeVyn was shocked when listening to her young clients talk about their bodies.
“Being in the physical fitness atmosphere and training young women has opened my eyes so much recently. I’m having as young as 8-9 year old girls tell me they want to train with me to be skinny. What? Are you kidding me? No I will not make you ‘skinny” I will teach you a healthy lifestyle in which to live by. I will teach you strength in women is admirable physically and emotionally. Shame on this world that has made the visual appearance all these girls see. There is beauty in good character, kindness, and passionate hearts. Jesus fearfully and wonderfully made you. If you have a young daughter, I encourage you (even if you already do) compliment her character as her true beauty!”
Devyn embodies the perfect example for girls and women.
Three Tips: Listen, Talk, Resources
1). Listen to girls carefully, to pick up on clues. If they ask about weight loss methods, about a diet their friends is on, or make a subtle negative comment about their body- those are good hints. Seize that time to discuss body image, healthy weight, peer and media influences.
2). Talk often to your girls about body image and ask questions. A good way to start, is to ask if their friends are concerned about their weight or shape. Then ask, what do you think about your friends’ concerns and if they can relate. Conversation is crucial for girls to create a positive body image. Take this time to debunk media stereotypes, peer pressure and myths.
3). Resources that are age appropriate will help with body image issues. Books, internet (parental screening needed) and talking to a mentor or counselor are all good options. A few suggestion below:
-‘What I Like About Me!’ by Allia Zobel Nolan for age 3-7.
-‘All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype to Celebrate Real Beauty’, by Audrey Brashich for ages 10-14.
-‘101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body’, by Brenda Lane Richardson and Elane Rehr.
-‘Heaven Bound in a Hollywood World’, by Frieda Drowler. Wonderful book set up to be done in 33 days (for millennials). You can do this with your daughter.
-‘Mighty Girl’ is a website that promotes healthy girl image/empowerment’
-‘Body Image and Adolescents’, Chapter 13, by Jillian Croll. http://www.epi.umn.edu
-PBS Kids online, ‘Raising a Girl With a Positive Body Image’
Over all, I feel the image girls are striving for is the fault of us, women, not just media. We are the ones that participate. I am guilty of not feeling polished or fully presentable to the world unless my make-up is on.
So understanding a balance is best. Unfortunately a young girl places their identity and meaning on a certain idea of being beautiful. This is stressful to many young girls. But I think women can change this idealist beauty girl culture by conversation and example.