She grew up.
My little girl started middle school, and it was there, in the 3rd grade, that my little multiplication genius, my little seafarer, started to become very self aware. Aware of her hair, her body, her face. She started to become aware of other girls and how they looked. The princesses from Disney movies and fairytales faded away, and now my little girl no longer aspired to be Ariel or a princess or even Indiana Jones. My little girl started to pay more attention to 'real' girls on TV. She started to read Teen Beat and became aware of boys, which only made my now not-so- little girl even MORE aware of her body and how she looked. She would go grocery shopping with her mom and she would let her eyes graze over all of the brightly, blinding magazine covers. Pair after pair of beautiful, sparkling eyes, flawless skin, and thin bodies stared back at my little girl and strange feeling came over her. Inadequacy. As she watched the DJ Tanners and Kelli Kapowskis, as she traded her Teen Beat for Teen Cosmo, the feeling of needing to be more, be different, and be BETTER overwhelmed my once very little, very happy, little girl. Gone was that care free spirit, and its place, a frantic young woman trying desperately to be something she wasn't. Disney princesses and childhood fantasies far removed, my little girl now aspired to be prettier, thinner, and more like one of the girls in her Teen Beat or on the TV shows.
Without even realizing it, my little girl began to lose sight of all of her dreams, and she became obsessed with a new dream: to be beautiful. Someone with perfect skin, a perfect shape, and perfect hair. She wanted to be that girl on the magazine cover, and she went to dangerous lengths to do it.
And no one told her that was wrong. No one told my little girl that images in those magazines or commercials were altered to erase flaws.
No one told her that what she was watching was not a reflection of reality.
No one told her about natural beauty.
No one told her friends either. At school, conversations turned away from fun and games to, "I want to be thinner.. this girl is so beautiful.. her skin is so perfect.. I wish I could fit in a bikini..."
As she began to see her imperfections as infections to be eradicated, she was swallowed up by the idea of reaching ultimate perfection. The frenzy of images she faced everyday that represented what the world found to be beautiful became constant reminders of just how beautiful she wasn't. The image of beauty the world around her perpetuated became ingrained in her mind. She picked and prodded, she exercised and starved herself. She put makeup on and copied every trend she could. She was surrounded- perfect nose here, bikini body there, weight loss tips, supermodels, cheerleaders at school - she became exhausted trying to keep up, and eventually, she became sad and hurt herself.
My little mermaid began to drown in a sea of ugliness that she never saw coming.
Despite having a family who loved her and always encouraged her to love herself and chase dreams.
Despite having friends who made her laugh.
Despite being recognized often for being smart and creative and kind.
And it took me a LONG time, to pull my little girl out of the waves.
I know what you're thinking- surely, my little girl knew better. Surely, she and her friends knew to love themselves, and what they saw in the media that they were bombarded with everyday was just a contorted version of a beauty standard that was unattainable.
But they didn't.
Just as easily as the princesses of fairtytales infiltrate their tiny hearts and minds, so do the images and messages of beauty our media and fashion industry bombard them with day after day.
EVERY woman once had a little girl.
And those little girls are facing an uphill battle.
Let's do all we can as an industry, as sisters, mothers, daughters, cousins, and friends, to help them.
The media may not be THE cause of Eating disorders, body dismorphic disorder, or any other body image centric disorders, but it is definitely an instigator. It's a contributor of the sneakiest kind. It's taking work to change the media's standard of what's beautiful, but the real work is up to us. We need to talk to our girls, teach them about self love, about being healthy, and about the what they are actually seeing in movies, TV, and magazines.
We need to teach them to have more dreams than just being beautiful.
#loveyourself #helpourgirls #wearemorethanasize #rewritebeautiful #EDAW2014