Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Having struggled with my own battle with both body image and self esteem I have come to realise how rife this issue is within our culture. Not only is this an issue that is plagued by the female population but boys and men too are being crippled by their own ideology of the perfect body form.
Having boys and a girl of my own I am seeing how both genders are vulnerable to experiencing negative attitudes towards themselves and their bodies. Social media doesn't help as they are under the constant microscope of appearances on a daily basis.
Body Image and My Children
My eldest son is 14. He has started playing in an elite soccer team. This involves 4 nights of training a week and then a game on weekends. I am witnessing him become conscious of what he eats, to maintain a fit physique which to his credit is a positive step towards his training. However I frequently see him taking 'selfies' and posting them to mates on social media. This I simply do not understand however he often remarks to me 'mum, its what every one does'.
Then there is my 11 year old daughter, who despite my constant insistence, manages to sneak her way onto instagram. Thankfully I am connected to her account and I became aghast when she recently posted an image of herself with just a small top on and short shorts, taking an image of herself holding her stomach looking in the mirror. Her post prior to that was of her making 'sexy' gestures way beyond her small 11 years. Having seen these posts, I sat her down and had a discussion that involved the use of social media, body perception and exploiting oneself (especially at the age of 11!)Her response was 'it's what all my friends do, I was just trying to copy them'.
Then there is my 9 year old son, who at often shares that he is 'fat' It doesn't help when his sister often torments him on his size and the fact that he has always been told how 'big' he is (when they say 'big' they mean he is very tall for his age - that then gets translated into being 'large' and 'fat').
We all do it, our culture has taught us to make (at the time) innocent remarks and judgements on ones appearance. We rarely think about the long term implications that these innocent comments may have on the individual.
Just last week my daughter was having a physio assessment for her dancing. As she was lying on the table the physio made a comment that she is a 'big' girl (once again meaning tall), and that she certainly doesn't have the same build as me (her mother). As I cringed she continued to comment on my daughter's 'big' build compared to her mothers! This woman had no idea of the potential impact these assuminglly innocent comments may have on my daughter. To be compared to your mother is bad enough let alone being told you are bigger!
Culture and Body Image
At what point do we learn to start questioning ourselves and the body that we live in. Culturally we are given messages constantly that we have to strive for perfection to be considered beautiful, attractive, loveable. Through social media, we are expected to present to the world an ideal that is far beyond who we really are. There is an expectation to be something that we simply are not. So with that expectation it is no wonder that we are all fighting with ourselves, our appearance, our bodies and our love for who we are.
Innocent Remarks on Body Image
And let's not forget those innocent comments that we all make, the ones that just roll of our tongue without a single thought only to leave a trail of destruction behind. What is it about our culture that we always have to make a comment about something. For my daughter when she was a baby it was her eyes, for my son as a teenager it is his crazy hair. What is it about our nature that comments always have to be made?
It is through these comments that over time our sense of self, our appearance, our confidence gets chipped away. If we do manage to get through unscathed then we get ridiculed for being too up ourselves, full of ourselves or stuck up.
So whether it be the unrealistically thin girl on the billboard sign or the daily comments about certain features, our culture blares into us that it is not OK to be who we are as we are.
At some point our current perceptions have to change. Teaching our youth to value themselves, to respect oneself and one's body, and each other is the key. Teaching our young to celebrate themselves and to be 'full of one's self' is the way forward in teaching self love and body acceptance. For it is within the youth that we can begin to change. Imagine if it wasn't even a concept to loathe ones self and body...........
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