Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships, National Eating Disorders Association
As a society, we are constantly bombarded with a very rigid scope of “beauty” promoted to us in the media, and countless ads promising women and girls we can “have it all” if we buy their products, count our calories, track our workouts, wear their clothes, the list goes on. And parents are no strangers to unattainable standards. There is a plethora of social media posts by fellow parents that appear as if their children never talk back or have temper tantrums or spill milk or give the dog a mud bath. These miracle children seem to potty-train themselves, and the parents are happily breezing through this journey with it all figured out. Trying to meet such expectations is exhausting. These incredibly high standards seem unattainable because they are. When messages that promote unrealistic standards are the majority of what we receive, it can lead to feeling like you aren’t good enough and you had better try harder, so we continue spinning our wheels into a culture of discontent. The irony of it all is that no matter how hard you try, you cannot attain something that is unattainable, be it one rigid standard of appearance or being a parent who never has a tough day.
Cue the tribe. When we have a group who can say “yeah, me too” or “this is confusing” or “that’s really tough,” we feel part of a community. Programs like the Body Project provide such a community while also offering participants tools to combat such social pressures. These are lessons we can take with us as we grow. Through media literacy, reflective writing, role-plays to practice challenging negative body talk, engaging in acts of body activism, the Body Project has introduced over a million girls and young women around the world to a shared movement where we push back on impossible perfectionism, and we celebrate self-expression and confidence in a community of like-hearted folks committed to radical self-love.
Here are a few tips for promoting body confidence in your home:
1. Examine your influence
Honestly examine your own language around appearance, exercise and nutrition. Are there ways in which you may be unintentionally promoting the “appearance ideal”? For example, complimenting someone on a weight loss, rolling your eyes at your reflection in the mirror or labeling foods as “good” or “bad.”
2. Change the script
Instead of greeting a friend with “you look great,” try “I’m so glad we have this time together.” Ask about her upcoming travel plans, what she’s reading or what exciting projects she’s working on. Stay away from appearance comments.
3. Practice affirmations
Make a point to acknowledge something you are grateful for about yourself, and let your kids hear you. For example, perhaps you are proud of your ability to use your voice to advocate for those in need, or how your laughter is contagious. Be kind to yourself and avoid negative comments about yourself and your body.
4. Critically engage
Teach your kids to be media literate. When they are watching their favorite show, sit down and watch with them. Engage in conversations about how they might handle similar situations in their own lives. When advertisements appear, ask them who benefits from the purchase of these products.
5. Follow joy
Encourage children to engage in activity that they enjoy.
Kristen Snow, Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships, National Eating Disorders Association, [email protected]