Apr 17, 2014

Time to Get Serious: Body Image

I recently saw this article posted on Facebook.  It was an interesting blog entry which touched on how crazy Photoshop jobs done on models and celebrities in magazines, give young people a very distorted image of what an "attractive" body is.  The image is more distorted than the pictures in the magazines themselves.  In the blog entry, this photo was shared:

It compares two pictures of the same model.  The edited picture is so ridiculous I actually had a hard time believing that it was actually published somewhere.  

These startling statistics were also shared:

42% of girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner. No 7-year-old should be self-conscious about their body. 78% of 17-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies. And no, that wasn’t a typo. 30% of high-school girls and 16% of high-school boys have an eating disorder. Teenage girls are reportedly “more afraid of gaining weight than getting cancer, losing their parents, or nuclear war.” 

So, why do I feel compelled to write about this topic?  Well, for a few reasons...

  1. I was once one of these teenage girls and these feelings have carried over into my adult life.
  2. I have a beautiful daughter of my own.
  3. I work with teenagers every single day and I have seen what these unfair expectations have done to them.  

As I have discussed before, I grew up overweight and had to deal the with the cruelty that comes along with being an overweight child and teenager.  I resorted to a few things to help "hide" my appearance.  My father used to be a very large man.  He wore a size 5X shirt at one point.  When I was a young teen, I found myself borrowing his over-sized shirts in order to hide my body...not really seeing that the incredibly large clothing actually drew MORE attention.  

This was me as an 11th grader.  Looking at this picture, I don't see anything wrong with this girl.  I wish I could go back in time and talk to her.  

Now that I am an adult, I am still very critical of myself, but have gotten better.  I have started dressing better and investing more time and energy in improving myself.  This is not because I want to appear better to others, it is because I want to feel good and comfortable in my own skin.  It is because I want to be healthy.  It is because I deserve to feel just as beautiful as a woman who can shop outside the plus-sized section.  I am constantly working on it, but I have made more improvements than you know.


Darcy is my beautiful 4 year old.  I cannot imagine how she could ever think of herself as less than that, but I know those thoughts will creep in.  I mean, last week, she was reluctant to wear shorts because she did not want other people to see her knees.  After I convinced her of how perfect her little knees were and how cute summer clothes can be, she gave in and was fine with the shorts.  I decided that I cannot openly criticize myself in front of her because I don't want to plant that seed in her head.  

My Work Children

Working as a school counselor, I have seen stories that some of you would not even believe...or want to believe.  It is an extraordinarily rewarding job, but on a near daily basis I speak to teenage kids who somewhere along the line, have been told that they are not skinny enough, their hair isn't pretty enough, their skin isn't dark enough (I work with a predominately African American student population), their shoes aren't stylish enough, or that their sexuality is not what it should be.  Some break out into tears and come to me to pour out their emotions...in which case I always listen and offer a shoulder to cry on.  I also build them up and make it my mission to continue to do so until they walk out those school doors.  Others take more serious measures.  I speak to some who have scars from where they cut themselves in order to distract them from the actual emotional pain they feel.  I speak to some who are suicidal.  I speak to some who are convinced that no one will ever love or accept them for who they are.  I sit in front of these kids and give excellent advice...all the while thinking that I should follow some if it myself.

I am not trying to be a downer.  It is just that the article I stumbled across really struck a chord with me.  The point is that there is no real definition of what beautiful is.  Who or what decided that anyway?  Decide what it is that makes you feel you are the best version of yourself and go with it.  Stick with it and do your very best to bring it out in others.  

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