It’s become a joke – we laugh, but it hurts.
Worry about weight and appearance is so all pervasive that we hardly question it.
The focus ought to be on what creates this anxiety – not on how can we live with it, or how we can reduce it by losing weight and altering appearance.
My daughter is still young enough to inhabit her body in total comfort. It is not that she is not conscious of her body – she is deliciously aware of it. She delights in it. She likes to adorn it, to change outfit several times a day, to dance and run and jump and climb, to wriggle and wallow in a bath, to prance about naked. Her body is an uncomplicated source of pleasure for her.
But something terrible is going to happen to her. She is going to learn to judge her body, to wish it were different, and probably to expend effort, time and money trying to alter it.
No matter how much we love her, and love the way she looks, and let her know this, other forces are at work that will cut across all this and destroy her easy self-acceptance.
Before they even reach their teens, most girls have a troubled relationship with their bodies. They worry about how they look, about being fat, about having hair in the wrong places, about not being tanned, about their size, their skin, their hair, their nose, their bum.
Many teenage girls already have a regime of painting their faces, shaving and straightening. Most girls have tried skipping meals and eating less in attempts to be thinner.
Children are fed a constant diet of images showing them how we are meant to look and behave. Greater importance seems to be given to how we seem and what we have, rather than what we do or who we are.
I am outraged at the damage that will befall my daughter. I am incensed at the harm that has already been done to me – to how I see myself, how I think about myself, how hard I have to work to love this here body, exactly as it is.
We can talk about the influences on us to look a certain way, and how we do not want to bow to them, but to be honest, I really cannot see how I can arm my daughter with the enormous self-confidence required to withstand the pressures. As their awareness grows, teens have a lot to contend with – they deserve all our love and support.
I know that one way to guide my daughter through those vulnerable teen years with a good body image intact would be for me to call a ceasefire in the insidious war that has been waging between me and my body all these years. I wish that was simple.