Today’s guest post was written by Andrea Owen, a blogger from Oceanside, California. We’d been chatting and swapping links on Twitter for a while when she emailed and asked if she could do a guest spot on ItStartsWith.Us about a subject she’s passionate about. I very much admired her personal dedication to the cause and her desire to improve the lives of young women everywhere, so I agreed. I hope you enjoy the article.
Some people may think I’ve lost my mind. Some people may remember me as the typical high school cheerleader who spent her weekends toilet papering people’s houses. So what in the world turned me into a pit bull fighting for women to love their bodies and themselves? I suppose I had just had enough. Enough of listening to beautiful women talk about how much they hate their thighs or their big butt, or how they need a boob job to be more “proportioned”. Enough of listening over and over again to “I’m so fat!” and “I feel so ugly”. Enough of hearing about another person who was “puking again” because of her eating disorder. Enough of all of this being normal. I also grew tired of hearing it because I was guilty of all of it.
- The average American women is 5’4” and weighs 140 pounds
- The average model is 5”11” and weighs 117 pounds
- Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women
- 42% of girls in first through third grade want to be thinner
- 80% of women say that the images of women on TV, in movies fashion magazines and advertising makes them feel insecure
We are a nation of women and girls who have been taught that it’s okay to hate our bodies, and to love and embrace our bodies is, well . . . weird. Perhaps it’s viewed as narcissistic, vain and conceited. But look at what we have to contend with. It starts with Disney’s princesses in fairy tails, then Barbie, moving on to teen idols, then men’s magazine – and all the while girls are growing up seeing hundreds of advertisements daily. All these things (of which I only mentioned a few) share something in common: We must be beautiful, sexy and most importantly – thin. Anything else is just not good enough. Girls bullying is becoming more and more common (and physical fighting as well), cyber bullying is prevalent on social networking sites, eating disorders are on the rise and being diagnosed as young as 8 years old. Girls are having sex younger and younger and teen pregnancy is still a huge problem. Girls, young girls, spend hours on end thinking, worrying and obsessing about their looks and their weight. You might think, “Isn’t that just a part of adolescence?” My answer to that is unfortunately, “Yes it is,” but only because we, as a society, have allowed it.
I was compelled to write Nate when I saw this in his “About Me” page: “My goal is to build a global community of individuals focused on making a positive impact in the lives of the people around them. In this way I hope to change the world for the better, for my children and those that come after.”
I grew up what most people would call somewhat “privileged”, in a middle/upper class suburb in San Diego. Loving parents, no drama, and my mom never had a terrible body image herself nor did either of them put too much pressure on me. So how did I grow up having an eating disorder and battle perfectionism if I had it so great? I started thinking I was fat at age 11 thanks to many influences; media, school pressure, etc. I don’t blame my parents but the ONE thing I think they could have done differently was simply have an open conversation with me about all of this. We need to talk to our daughters. Even if you think she is doing great, talks to you about her friends, boyfriends, school, gets good grades and is well behaved, I have news for you: If you never give her the opportunity to talk openly to you about her body image, media influences and her self esteem, chances are she is getting all her lessons from places she shouldn’t. This isn’t about lecturing or preaching; it’s about just asking, listening and allowing her to be heard. Parents need to tell their daughters they are more than just pretty. It’s imperative to this generation growing up. As parents, we all want what’s best for our kids. How they feel about themselves is the foundation for the rest of their life. To me, it’s really that simple.
I want the next generation of girls, including my daughter, to not feel she has to live up to ridiculous beauty stereotypes. That if she is bigger than a size zero or has a “muffin top” that she is still beautiful. I want her to have positive female role models that emulate what it is to be a good person and stand up for what she believes in her heart and that she doesn’t back down from that just because someone might call her a bitch for being outspoken. That she takes pride in being more than just pretty. I want the next generation of girls to not think they have to do it all perfectly.
I started hosting free Dove Self Esteem workshops for girls ages 8-12 and have seen all types of girls. Some of the girls have never talked about self esteem before. Many of them think it’s something they are born with. They like being able to say that they are good at math or science or that they are a good friend and not be judged or criticized for saying so. We also talk about what photoshop does to images that they see every day and most of them have no idea what image enhancing is and are very outspoken about how unfair it is to them. One 9 year old girl said, “So, most of what we see in magazines is a big pile of bologna!”
Don’t underestimate the difference you can make in a young girl’s life when it comes to her self esteem and body image. You don’t need to be a professional therapist or counselor. You just need to be willing to say, “Enough is enough. Let’s take back our own lives, fat or skinny, glasses, no glasses, freckles or no freckles and teach this generation what it truly means to be beautiful”.
Just talk about it.
Statistics from National Eating Disorders Awareness or the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. You can find more information on how to talk to young girls including activities at The Campaign for Real Beauty.
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