Your body is beautiful. Yep, I said it. And, guess what, it’s true. Now you’re probably wondering, how can I say that if I haven’t even seen you? Because no matter what size or shape you might be, no matter how tall, how skinny, how freckled or even disfigured you might be, YOUR BODY IS BEAUTIFUL. For starters, it tells the story of YOU. So, you’ve got some scars, some cellulite, stretch marks, loose skin, are overweight or underweight…it’s all beautiful. Not only is your body beautiful, it is also incredibly amazing. It can do a lot of things, like grow a baby, carry groceries and children at the same time, cook dinner while talking on the phone and feeding a baby, and a trillion other things, too. If I know your body is beautiful, then why don’t you?
In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a serious eating disorder at some point during their life (Wade, Keski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011). Add to that, more than 5 million people to about 7.5 million people in the United States alone have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Body Dysmorphic Disorder, also known as BDD, is a “preoccupation with one or more perceived defects of flaws in physical appearance that are not observable or appear slight to others” (DSM-5). Given these numbers, we know that body image is a serious problem is our culture and society. It is an extraordinarily huge social issue, that is finally starting to get the attention it deserves.
As a parent, you must lead by example. It is your job to teach your children to love themselves just as they are. So, too, you must love yourself just the way you are. How can you possibly teach your child to love their overweight body, their very large breasts, or their giant feet, if all they hear you do is berate yourself for being too fat, too short, too something? Rather than focusing on specific traits that you like or don’t like, it is best to focus on overall health. If your family can focus on eating healthy food, getting plenty of rest and exercise, and doing things that make everyone happy, then there is no room for worrying about how everyone’s bodies look. And it’s just unimportant.
Unfortunately, this is harder than it might seem. You are up against some really powerful obstacles, such as peer groups, social media, television, movies and magazines. Talk with your children about the images you see, so that they know this is not the norm or what most people truly even look like. Explain that images are retouched so they don’t think anyone looks as perfect as the images they are seeing. And take some solace in the fact that many celebrities are starting to stand up to body shaming and send out body positive messages for all to hear. Just recently, Hilary Duff, Katherine Heigl, and Amy Schumer have all spoken up with some positive messages. Dove brand has done a phenomenal job of demonstrating body positivity in all shapes and sizes. Share these positive messages with your children, and take it to heart yourself as well.
Here are some tips that might help you see how beautiful your body really is:
- Focus on overall health. Proper nutrition and exercise is far more important than any number on a scale or size on a clothing label.
- Look in the mirror and practice noticing the things you LIKE about your body, instead of slamming yourself for the things you don’t.
- Create a personal story about your body, including flaws and scars. Something like “I am a powerful woman who gave birth three times, fought off a dog attacking me, and survived breast cancer. I am a warrior. My body is awesome. I am beautiful.” Tell yourself this story every day, especially when you’re feeling down on yourself.
- Don’t ever let anybody criticize your body. Stand up for yourself and shut them down.
- If someone you’re around is focusing on body features of others, change the subject and talk about how smart, funny or talented that individual is with. Shut down the body shaming right there, right then.
The problem of body image is pervasive in our country. Let’s all work together and teach our children that they are all beautiful. If we focus on being healthy, inside and out, and keep focusing on the positive messages out there, it is possible that everyone can learn to love themselves just the way they are!