Teaching Girls to Hate Themselves

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My five-year old daughter, Kathryn.

“Wow, she’s really big for five.”

“Oh my, she’s so tall.”

“What are you feeding her?!”

Literally, these are comments that have been made in reference to my five-year old daughter just in the last week. As a matter of fact, all of these were said by one person whom I had just made acquaintance. Now, this post is not necessarily in regard to that person, because this happens anytime my daughter is introduced to a new adult.

You would think children would do this too, but I have never once heard a child make a remark about my daughter’s appearance, unless they were complimenting her sunglasses or some nonessential like that. Such comments will likely not occur until those children reach an age where they’ve been fully programmed to look for the differences in their peers.

Our society is obsessed with appearance and “norms,” especially concerning women.

It’s appalling to me that grown people consider it perfectly acceptable to comment on a child’s body.

The truth is, none of the adults I’m referring to meant any harm at all. As a matter of fact, often the “she’s so tall” comments are followed by a postscript, if you will, of “but that’s good!”

Why is it good, exactly? And if it wasn’t considered “good,” then what is it? And why does it matter?

I know that on an animalistic level, appearance matters. I see this in the birds outside my windows, where the males are parading around, showing off their best sides, clad in their Springtime best, but aren’t humans supposed to be more highly evolved, with their technology and buildings that reach for the heavens?

Humans are, biologically social creatures and we still, to this day, try to avoid being outliers. The outliers get eaten by tigers. The outliers die before creating offspring. The outliers get others killed. I get it. It’s instinctual and like tigers eyeing a herd of gazelles, we instinctually look for those outliers. This is all fine, except for the fact that humans consider themselves more evolved.

When apparently, we are not.

At least not the mainstream population.

Even with the beautiful and powerful feminine forces at work today, women are still programmed to believe that we are somehow born wrong. From birth, parents these days are told what percentile their babies are in and parents proudly or shamefully proclaim these percentiles to their families, friends, and anyone who will listen to them.

Later, unless the child fits perfectly in the “normal” range, these wonderful children are bombarded with comments about what’s different about them. Their height, their weight, their freckles, their feet, a birthmark or whatever strikes an adult observers fancy.

So many girls are programmed to hate their bodies at a young age. It’s heartbreaking. Imagine living your life in a vessel that you’ve been told (often numerous times) is flawed from day one.  This is exactly what has been happening to young girls for centuries.

From my own experience, since I was young, I’ve been told “you’re so tall and thin,” that it became part of my identity. When I first hit one hundred pounds, I immediately stopped eating until it got back down to an “acceptable ninety-five pounds.” I was not even a teenager at this time. I also have a distinct memory of being ten years old and having a goal to fit in my five-year old sister’s pants. I actually achieved this goal and proudly wore her pants to school. Where did my body hate come from at such a young age? There could be any number of sources, but who can really pinpoint the pivotal moment when a casual comment turned the tides and turned me against my body.

If we were able to create a norm; if we were able to pick out certain characteristics and create a race of people who looked beautiful, what would that be?

What exactly is normal for human appearance?

What exactly is beautiful for human appearance?

What size, shape, color, height, weight, and attitude is normal for a girl?

It depends on which decade you reference – more truthfully, there isn’t a “normal.”

There is, however, abnormal and that is forcing anything that isn’t natural for the body. The food restriction, the body hate, the abusive remarks that girls later internalize, the cosmetic surgery – with breast augmentation and nose jobs, with women having metal objects inserted into their bodies to literally suck fat from their thighs – all to fit within some fictional “norm.”

And this type of self-inflicted abuse is perfectly acceptable and even celebrated in our society today.

Let me get back to my daughter, who is beautiful. Not because she fits a certain look, not because she’s what a friend called a “classic beauty,” whatever that means. She’s beautiful simply because she is herself. She’s beautiful because in all of the world, she’s the only Her. She gregarious, generous, kind-hearted, intelligent, hilarious, and at this time in her life, perfectly comfortable in her own skin.

I’m greatly looking forward to the day when women rise above the superficial. When they talk more about ideas than they do the newest fad diet that promises to give them the perfect summer body. I’m looking forward to the day when women stop looking for validation in male attention. I’m looking forward to the day when we all lift one another up, instead of competing. We’re all beautiful. As Maya Angelou said, we are enough. 

We were born enough.

I know there are many women out there working hard to build up other women. I know there are many women out there, who are working hard each day to rise above the lies in their head that tell them they aren’t good enough, because they never want their daughters or sons to buy into such nonsense. I know you’re out there and you’re making a huge difference. I also want to add that I know there are men out there doing the same thing and I know that body hate is not a “woman’s issue,” but for the sake of this piece, I made women my focus.

My tip is this: The next time you meet someone, try to genuinely get to know them. The next time you meet another woman, try to make a compliment that isn’t superficial.

And for fucks sake, do not utter a single comment about a child’s body. Do not participate in the programming. Allow that child the freedom to simply be Herself in your presence.

xoxo

Resa

 

2 thoughts on “Teaching Girls to Hate Themselves

Add yours

  1. It’s such a heavy topic to talk about, isn’t It? Appearance is the number one shame trigger amongst us, women. And it deeply bothers me. Sometimes innocent comments such as: ‘are you really going to have this piece of cake’ make me spiral out of control.
    I want to change how we start viewing that superficial airbrushed ideals of beauty and start focusing on what’s inside. We are definitely more than enough, that’s why we are here. I love Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly where she talks about how to change that. She suggests vulnerability being the key.. and if even though it makes me uncomfortable (I’m a ‘recovering perfectionist’) I agree with her. Opening up, leaning into that fear and discomfort vulnerability brings us may be way forward.
    Great thought provoking post. 👌

    Liked by 1 person

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