The media is full of images that claim to promote the perfect body. What body type this might be will differ based on the person who is posting the photo, and tastes vary. But one thing remains the same: they idealize a certain figure, and demonize the rest.
When discussing something as sensitive and potentially hurtful as weight and size, it can be difficult to know where to start. It is a topic that is too often ignored when speaking to our own daughters, because we as parents just don’t know how to broach the subject. Add to the fact that we often have our own negative feelings about our own bodies, and the whole thing seems like a minefield.
The “Perfect Body”
According to a survey by Heart of Leadership, more than 90% of girls aged 15 – 17 asked admitted to at least one physical characteristic they wished they could change. The number one feature was their weight or body shape.
Where are these insecurities coming from? For the most part it seems to be visual. A full 69% of elementary school girls reported their ideals of a perfect body shape coming from pictures. Another 47% say that it makes them want to lose weight.
In addition, home life, cultural background and community can have an impact on how our daughters perceive body type. Which in turn impacts how they see themselves, and their own self-image.
Fighting Against False Ideals
So, how do we fight against this problem? Our children are being bombarded with images from the media, the internet, and even their friends. They see us struggle with the same insecurities and negative body perceptions.
Worst of all, they regularly see body side and type directly correlated to the idea of personal success and satisfaction. They don’t just think they Photoshopped images of models are what they should strive to look like, they think they can’t be happy until they do.
If you read any weight loss forum, you will regularly see posts like, “I just can’t relax until I lose those last ten pounds”, or “I want to travel to XYZ, but I don’t want to do it until I am a size 4”. People are actively holding themselves back because they don’t fit the image that they believe stands for true happiness.
Such ideas form early, and our daughters are already falling victim to them. We have to be open with our children, and discuss these topics no matter how uncomfortable it may be. The idea that they can be happy, capable, beautiful and strong no matter what their body type has to be promoted.
There are institutes and programs dedicated to improving your teens self esteem, but as parents we have to take an active role.
Happiness Does Not Depend On Waist Size
This is an ongoing battle, and we have to remain vigilant. Teaching our daughters that they can do anything, and their body type has no correlation with their worth, is crucial.