Girls and Body Image: Pursuit to Make the Mark
By Arathi Devandran @miffalicious
We’re all born with something we’re not entirely happy with, about ourselves. It could be a crooked eyebrow, or a conspicuous birthmark, it could be too big breasts, or too small ones, it could be an ass or it could be no-ass or it could just be a general “I wish I could look like her, and her, and her.”
We spend so much of our time looking beyond ourselves to find perfection.
We turn to ads, and mirrors, the kinds that make us look slimmer, and leaner, because “that looks good”.
We turn to fads and diets: “I’m only having soup this week because I’ve heard you can lose up to 10kg within like 20 hours”. Yes, I exaggerate, but you understand what I mean.
We pop pills and introduce alien chemicals into the very temples we need to nourish and protect because we want to aim towards the superlative of “looking BEST”, “being SLIMMEST”.
We set ourselves up against people who lead different lives, who have different means and resources at hand, who do different things and eat different food and wear different clothes and we go, “Yes, that is how I want to be.”
Ultimately, we do everything we can to remove the very differences that make us special, to conform to a warped idea of physical “beauty” that society has perceived.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and plead guilty to all of the above and more.
Determined to “lose weight and look better”.
And the best part is, I’ve always been of a healthy weight.
But that was never enough.
As an Indian girl, I have been blessed with curves (more than necessary in some areas, but I’ll let this gripe slide for another day). I also come from a family where everyone’s tall, so I tend to tower over most girls my age, and most people in my country (yes, men included). Add my penchant for heels into this mix, and I am always seen to be larger than life (pun intended).
It is difficult to reign in that little monstrous voice that quips: “You need to be smaller so that you don’t stand out so much”.
A familiar voice, one that I’ve heard most of my life, one which took root during my all-girls’-school days.
Even among young girls, and I’m talking about tweeners, there is a certain level of vindictive competition that exists when it comes to weight. Bigger girls find themselves desperately not eating during break times so that they can lose the extra baby flab that rests so daintily on their cheeks and hips. Thin girls starve themselves so that they don’t put on weight. Rumors will go around classes that X, Y, and Z have been retching in toilets again. If it wasn’t happening in your school, it was happening elsewhere. If it wasn’t happening immediately around you, there was enough material on the internet and the television to lure you to the dark side of being uncomfortable in your own skin.
Young girls are so easily peer pressured into leading unhealthy lives and developing unhealthy habits. Even if there is no tangible influence from their immediate social circles, they are sublimely affected by the evils of popular culture that go on and on about conformation and talk little about self-respect.
I fell into that trap at a young age, and to this day, I struggle to get out of it.
Loving yourself is not a magical phenomenon that happens overnight. It is an education that starts at a young age, and parents play a big role in driving this home. It is a lot of self-talk, and nipping-in-the-buds of self-harming behaviour which includes something as simple as an obsession with the weighing scale.
Encourage your young daughter when she picks a book over a too-fake Barbie doll. Let her enjoy her ice-creams and sweets, but also teach her the benefits of exercise. Remind her that respect doesn’t just start at home, but starts with the self.
Compliment your teenager even when she has a pimply-bad-hair day. Remind her that it is her sharp mind and strong heart that is going to get her far, not her dress size or the number of calories she doesn’t consume.
Teach her about the temple that is her body.
Then, watch as she blossoms into a goddess
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