“Does my bum look big in this?”

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.

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Posted on 31 May 2012
Musings: Parenting girls, Parenting teenagers
Tags: , , , , , ,

2 or so comments

2 Responses to “Does my bum look big in this?”

  1. sara bran says:

    Not sure how I missed this beautiful, poignant post ~ I too wish it were that simple X

  2. Kate says:

    Yaaay *applause* this reminds me of something I heard a while ago: Don’t worry about your hair it will turn white some day Don’t worry about having a hot or sexy body it will sag one day Don’t worry about having white teeth they will fall out some day Don’t worry about having a pretty face it will wrinkle some day Instead worry about having a loyal heart that will love you everyday The last line doesn’t really make sense but it’s really about love so ignore the love you everyday bit. Also thought of this: Dear Girls, For one day, I dare you to bake brownies and eat them, as many as you want. For one day, I dare you to go up to your crush and talk to him, about anything you want For one day, I dare you to speak your mind, even if others don’t agree For one day, I dare you to wear what you want to wear, not what you are told to wear For one day, I dare you to go makeup-free For one day, I dare you to put your hand up in class and ask questions, even if you are branded as a nerd For one day, I dare you to laugh as loud as you can when you find something funny For one day, I dare you to be friends with the people you want to be friends with, not the most popular girls in school For one day, I dare you to be 100% You. I hope you liked these everyone and they brightened your day a little!

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