There is a never ending stream of images, messages and pressures bombarding girls and young women. Really, women of all ages. But so many of these images are most impactful to the females on the younger rather than older spectrum.
There is a ridiculous amount of information floating out there in the world. Some of it sage, a lot of it silly if not down right irresponsible. Confusing at best. Sadly, I don't think this mom's experience of finding the media's reach on her 7-year old is that uncommon (warning; there is some strong language in the article).
I'm going to take this moment to make it very clear that I am not a therapist, a counselor, a nutritionist or a doctor, of any kind. What I am, though, is a mom to two daughters, a daughter myself, a woman, and someone who has spent most of her life in dance, ballet to be specific, a realm where, depending on the environment you call home, can have a lot of pressures on body image. For both males and females, but especially girls and teens. I have also fought my own battles with being on the body dysmorphic disorder spectrum and the self destructive behaviors that commonly spring from it.
A few weeks ago I posted about body image in Who Is That In The Mirror? While I don't want to belabor the point or subject over much, there has to be some cosmic sense to why I endured all that stuff and am strong and alive to talk about it. Hopefully I have gained at least some wisdoms to pass along.
I have been asked over the years if dance, mainly ballet, causes eating disorders. My overall opinion is no. Eating disorders are very complex, and can involve much deeper issues. This article articulates this pretty well. But certain disciplines have higher risks for dangerous behaviors when it comes to body image issues. From I understand, horse racing jockeys are at very high risk.
No one knows what stresses and struggles lay ahead for ourselves or our children as they plow through life. So why not err on the side of caution and help the daughters of today become the strong, healthy and focused pioneers of tomorrow.
Be Very Careful How You Talk About Yourself!
We, as mothers, whether we like it or not become the first image of feminine beauty to our daughters. When we, as mothers, put ourselves down for things we dislike about our bodies or appearance we don't just train our daughters to put themselves down. We train them to distrust their own inner voice. Please take a moment for that to sink in. Remember, a baby's mother is his or her first definition of beauty, regardless of what the rest of the world's opinions are. When you reinforce that as a lie, you run the risk of reinforcing that your daughter's inner voice is also capable of lying. Without an inner voice, we are but lost.
Keep Your Crap In Your Own Luggage!
Okay, so your daughter inherited your hearty, child-bearing hips (or whatever it is, most all of us women have that "thing"). The same hips you've hated your whole life for as long as you can remember. Hey guess what, your daughter may not give a crap about her hips. She may think they are just fine. You didn't like it when that relative made an unwelcome remark about your hips (or whatever; thick ankles, small/large breasts). If she does share your frustration, help her find ways to focus on the things that she does like about herself. I feel that we as women are conditioned to point out our flaws and while appearing to be irreverent to our assets. Especially those assets that are based on performance, not appearance.
Let Your Daughter Be Her Own Beauty.
Let your daughter explore her own view of what makes her feel beautiful. Within reason, of course. Dressing in a suggestive or objectifying way is an obvious no. If the desire to dress provocatively comes up, start a conversation. Find out your daughter's views on the images she sees in her everyday life. Let her know that she does not need to be a victim of society, but can become an architect of it. You might learn things about yourself as well.
Do Not Diet! Opt For Healthy Lifestyle Choices Instead.
For one thing, diets don't work. Especially crash diets. Since when is crashing a way to start anything, unless your talking about celebrity wedding receptions. Oh, and on the topic of celebrity diets; your relying on the words of their publicists who get paid to keep their clients relevant. Plus, they really don't represent the everyday. They are often held to unrealistic standards. And they aren't in charge of raising your kid!
You want to change your chow? Focus on the "feeling better, feeling healthy" aspects of changing how you or your family eats. Not solely on the weight loss and appearance aspects.
Unless you are keeping tabs on a medical issue involving organ failure, don't focus on the scale. Rather, judge progress by how your clothes feel. Your clothes don't have hormonal fluctuations or retain water. Although I'm convinced that my 2004 Chevy Suburban suffers from occasional PMS. It just doesn't want to fit into its regular parking spots!
Learn To Take Care Of Yourself!
I know it seems cliché to point out the whole "Please put your oxygen mask on first before helping others", but it's true. Learn to take care of yourself. In this way you can demonstrate ways for your daughter to learn to empower herself.
Here is an article I found while doing some research for this post.
And here's to the two most important gals in my life!
Thanks for reading.
Enjoy the dance that is life!