The Beauty Revolution
When I was in high school (twenty years ago. Okay, twenty-two years ago), annorexia was just coming onto our radar as a problem amongst teens, particularly teenage girls.
A few of the girls in my school year suffered from it, or came perilously close to having an eating disorder. Was it a coincidence this was right around the same time as the sudden rise of the supermodel? I think not. Their images were everywhere. They had cult status. They dated movie stars and rock stars. They were stars; light years away from the reality of the female teen body.
And yet, they were the standard of beauty we were given by which to measure ourselves. Our shortfall was the measurement of how much we loathed ourselves.
We loathed ourselves by the kilo, by the inch, by the centimetre, by the blemish. Whatever aspect of our appearance did not measure up to their air-brushed perfection, we lamented about ourselves.
I had a cousin and a school friend both hospitalised with annorexia. I don't know whether they have ever fully recovered the mental space that was taken up with obsessing about food and exercise, calories and kilos. But they are alive, thankfully.
I read an interview once with Elle MacPherson, where she was asked what she doesn't like about her body and she said it was her job to conceal her flaws. I was shocked she thought she had any. She was, after all, The Body!
The most helpful interview with a supermodel I ever read was one where Cindy Crawford said even she doesn't look like Cindy Crawford. That started me thinking; if Cindy doesn't even really look like Cindy, why do we expect to? Or more accurately; why do we feel dejected that we don't?
Now that I am a mother to girls, I feel the weight of responsibility of giving them a positive self-image. Yes, I acknowledge they are beautiful, but I tell them it's more important to be beautiful on the inside, than the outside. I praise their efforts and achievements. I nurture their talents.
But here's what I don't do: I don't allow a set of scales in the house and I don't allow mirrors in their bedrooms. Why? Because I want them to view the world through a window, not a mirror. And I don't want their weight to be a measure of their value. Instead of staring at their reflection, obsessing about their appearance, I want them to spend their time being curious about the world, creating beautiful things and fun memories.
We talk about food in terms of health; whether they've eaten enough protein, fruit and vegetables for the day. And they are not allowed to use the 'F' word--Fat. And the hardest part--I have taught myself to love and accept my body, so that they will love and accept theirs. We go for walks on the beach together, ride bikes and scooters and swim, and marvel at what our bodies can do.
I recently came across this amazing video of Jessica Smith. She is an Australian Paralympian who is determined to start a beauty revolution: to start us loving our bodies. Watch it and share. It's a powerful message.
P.S. I just discovered this awesome school project on positive body image. You can support them by 'liking' their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Body-Image/194472477324704
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