If I told you that I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how my daughters feel when they look in the mirror, it would be an understatement. If I told you that I can now, at 42, look in the mirror and see beauty looking back at me, it would be a lie.
How do we teach our daughters to love themselves if we still struggle?
Teen girls (and their moms too) are bombarded daily with images of the ideal body, the perfect face, and pictures of beauty that are mostly impossible to achieve.
Basically, we’re informed daily that we are not okay. It’s in direct conflict with what we KNOW : learning to accept, love and take care of ourselves is essential to our wellness.
Countering society’s pressure is like trying to sprint up a mountain in an avalanche. It’s even harder if those high heels (to make you look taller and thinner) are pinching your feet. How can you catch your breath when your Spanx are suffocating you?
To all the girls that think you’re fat because you’re not a size 0, you’re the beautiful one. It’s society that’s ugly.
She was right, of course, and it’s only getting uglier.
Eating Disorder Statistics from ANAD.org:
- 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.8
- 25% of college-aged women engage in bingeing and purging as a weight-management technique.
- The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
- Over 1/2 of teenage girls and nearly 1/3 of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
Those are simply numbers and they don’t mean much when you can’t put a face to the pain that accompanies each person struggling with an eating disorder, depression and self-hatred.
As a parent, there are many things we can fear for our children. I fear this. I fear that my girls will not see their beauty and brilliance.
I want them to understand as Marilyn did: “we are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle.”
My teen and I have talked about this topic for years. I’m also painfully aware that talking (while helpful) won’t make much of a difference if she hears me saying negative things about my body. If she hears me complain about back fat, or watches me attempt to starve myself so I can be thinner in time for summer, what message am I sending?
I don’t have all the answers, but I know that if my little women grow up hearing me criticize myself, they will learn to do the same. If they see me take good care of myself and strive for a healthy body (which is not the same as a beach perfect waistline) they will learn to follow suit.
I hate that I can’t simply read a book and learn to say all the right things and magically instill a healthy body image in each of my girls. I hate that I still have to work on this (along with all the other things on my list). But it’s okay. It’s a necessary labor of love.
I need the constant reminder: Be gentle with yourself.
Happy Birthday Marilyn. The world may remember your face, your shape forever, but I will remember your beautiful words.
“In spite of everything, life is not without hope.”
– Marilyn Monroe
This post is a part of the iHN Link Up – Birthday Lessons and Unit Studies.