My daughter is almost five months old, but one very important lesson I’ve already internalized for her came when a family friend came to meet her. My wife and I were proudly holding her and said something like, “Isn’t she such a beauty queen, she’s so pretty!” Our visitor said, “… and smart too!” and smirked. Why is it that even while my daughter is an infant, much of what she is being taught is about being pretty and being a beauty queen. Obviously, since she’s an infant there’s not much else to comment on about her personality since much of that is still unknown, but it was a moment when I realized my duty to make sure my daughter is not raised with the princess-mentality where she feels the need to be a beauty queen. I want her to be raised to have a healthy body image, not a warped view that tells her she needs to look just like the people on TV or else there’s something wrong with her.
I came across this link from CBS News on “Eating Disorders: 9 Mistakes Parents Make.” It’s a great reminder of the imporantance to teach our children healthy views on body image. Here’s a great link with Parenthood.com’s tips on “How to Tell if Your Child Has an Eating Disorder” and what you can do about it.
With the prevalence of Eating Disorders being fairly well known, I think most parents of girls know that it’s important to teach their daughters healthy body image (whether they actually teach it is another story). If you don’t have a daughter, please don’t make the mistake of thinking, “I don’t have a daughter, so I’m off the hook.” Many teenage boys see the muscle-bound action heros and the suave ladies-men and think, “I’m not like that, but I should be” and have similar self-image problems (though eating disorders are clearly more common among girls). Also, young men need to be taught that women should not be seen as objects for their viewing/sexual pleasure and that they should not expect the women in their lives to look like the people on TV.
The National Eating Disorders Association has a great website that’s full of help for parents and teenagers, I strongly encourage you to browse through their website if an Eating Disorder is a problem (or a suspected problem) for you or your family. The NEDA has prepared this helpful list of 10 Steps to Positive Body Image.
And please, do not feel the need to keep this struggle a shameful struggle, this is a way more common struggle than you may feel it is. There is hope, but seek help and talk to a parent or trusted adult soon. You don’t need to live in silence and shame, seek God through prayer and Scripture and invite a few close and trusted Christians into your life to give you strength when you’re feeling weak.