As a mother to a very little girl, I have started to think about the perception of beauty a lot more. I’ve been thinking about what is perceived as beautiful and how one can be ridiculed if they do not fit into that perception of perfection. I’ve also thought about how negative body image can affect young girls long term, once they grow into women. Most of all I have been thinking about what myself and other women can do to change it.
I read an article today which struck a chord with me. One about a girl who was bullied her whole life because she was a little bit heavier than other girls and how that impacted her life well into adulthood.
How those negative remarks,negative body image and constant teasing had become so ingrained in her brain that even as a woman in the best shape of her life, those issues niggled away at her constantly. I connected with this story as it felt so similar to my own.
My Struggle With Body Image
I openly talk about the fact that I lost a great deal of weight. What I don’t often talk about is how that transition left me with body dysmorphic disorder. So for everyone else who looks at me I just look like a normal person. But when I look in the mirror I see myself as obese.
This is probably mainly down to the fact that even after I lost a lot of weight, I was in a profession where looks are as important as skill and even when I was super thin, I was still told I needed to lose weight. Plus my whole life I have been a dancer, therefore involved in something where you have to be thin, you have to look nice etc. But it is probably also a combination of years of bullying at school as well as media driven perceptions of beauty.
I am aware of it and know that most of the time it is my mind playing tricks on me so to speak. But it can become a strain where you don’t want to go out and do things because you feel so uncomfortable about how you look.
This I have noticed even more so in the past few months since giving birth to my daughter. We all know that everyone experiences changes in their body after creating a human! But it can be very difficult to take control of when you feel like your body has changed so much and it is out of your control.
Preserving Positive Body Image For The Next Generation
Seeing so many other women with similar issues to my own worries me as to how this affects our young girls of today. Although my daughter is currently too young to understand, It worries me to think that even from a young age my own negativities towards my personal body image as well as media driven perceptions of beauty could give my daughter a similar complex.
There are too many instances of young girls trying to follow dieting trends and weight loss myths. Essentially starving themselves in order to feel beautiful.
There are a few things that we as women can do to prevent this.
Promoting Physical and Mental Health is Key
I think the best place to start is leading by example. Promoting healthy eating within your home is a great place to start. Your daughter doesn’t need to see you on a ‘diet’. But promoting healthy habits like clean eating and working out is great for both of you.
Not only will promoting clean eating in your home, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh fish and whole grains keep the whole family healthy, it will give you little one all the nutrition their growing bodies need.
Moreover, it is incredibly important for kids to be fit and active. These days it is all too easy for them to get lost in an xbox. But seeing you being active from a young age will make them feel like working out is a normal thing to do. Plus, be active together! You don’t need to swing a kettlebell around, but take your kids swimming, you to a mummy and baby yoga session or just have a good old fashioned run around the park!
Keeping the whole family healthy and active is a great way to promote both physical and mental health. Something everyone can benefit from.
Steer Clear of the Word ‘Beautiful’
My daughter is beautiful. Of course I will say that I’m her mother, but she is! However, I think for girls telling them they are beautiful because of how they look is not always the best approach. I try to tell my little girl ‘you’re so clever!’ and ‘you’re so funny’.
Of course she is beautiful too, but I want her to grow up feeling like it is not all about what you look like. It is about her talents and skills and how good a person she is! As let’s face it we all know someone who looks good but is ugly on the inside! I want her to know what she looks like on the outside isn’t the be all and end all!
Also, try not to promote beauty as perceived by the media. If Taylor Swift is on the TV, don’t make a comment about how beautiful she is. Say she’s ‘a very clever business woman’ or ‘a very talented singer’. Even if she’s appearing is a beauty campaign, act like you didn’t even notice her beauty.
Also, give yourself a break. You never need to say how fat you look or how you hate your hair in front of your daughter. These bad habits are things your kids will pick up from you.
If we try to get rid of negative body image by starting at home this will in turn also help prevent teasing and bullying. For example, if we all follow these steps at home with our own children (the boys too!) then they won't feel the need to pick on the girl who is a little bit heavier. Because she’s a really nice person, or she’s a great singer. Why? Because we have taught our kids that these things are more important than the way she looks.