When my ten year old cousin told me she was “fat,” my face turned bright red and tears began to flow down my face. I couldn’t believe what I had heard from my young, innocent, protected cousin.
I have struggled with body image before, always comparing myself to media images of thin female models and actresses who look beautiful by modern American standards, appearing happy. When I heard it come from my cousin, it was different. It made me angry. It made me sad. It made me wonder what our society was like. I became determined to find out why young girls in today's society feel an overwhelming amount of pressure to look thin.
Many young girls feel an overwhelming desire to look thin. They want to look like the models they see on television and the actresses they see in movies. “The increasing number of children suffering from weight problems is partly due to the trend” (Devlin). There is no doubt that young girls want to be thin. The real question is, What causes this trend?
Media is one culprit. “The average teen girl gets about 180 minutes of media exposure daily and only about 10 minutes of parental interaction a day” (Hobbs). Young girls spend excessive amounts of time comparing themselves to thin models. What these girls don't realize is that models dedicate their lives to dangerous amounts of exercise and dieting. They also don’t understand that these models are photoshopped and most parents are not taking time to help their daughters recognize how unrealistic these images are. Although media sets a horrible example for young girls, they are not the only ones.
Mothers also play a huge role in their daughter's body images. "Mothers play a tremendous role in their daughters' self-assurance and potential to develop eating disorders." (Gittes). Mothers are most daughter's first and most influential role model, and they want to be just like them. “They notice when their mothers exercise obsessively, diet constantly, or make derogatory comments about their own appearance” (Heubeck). They believe this is the right thing to be doing and start doing it themselves. This leads to dangerous dieting techniques and, in extreme cases, eating disorders. Although daughters learn many healthy habits from their mothers, they also learn terrible ones.
Our daughters and loved ones will live a sad, miserable, wretched lives if everything they do is centered around having a “perfect body”. This is not okay. We need to make a change, and we need to make it now. Here is a challenge to you my readers: If you have a young girl in your life, make an effort to show them it's not what's on the outside that matters, but it's what's on the inside that matters.
Schulten, Katherine. "Is There Too Much Pressure on Girls to Have 'Perfect' Bodies?" The Learning Network Is There Too Much Pressure on Girls to Have Perfect Bodies Comments. The New York Times, 3 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.
Devlin, Kate. "Children as Young as 10 Feel Pressure to Have a 'perfect' Body." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 27 Aug. 2009. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.
"Body Image: Four-Year-Olds 'Feeling Pressure'" Sky News. N.p., 23 Mar. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.
Heubeck, Elizabeth. "Girls and Body Image: Media's Effect, How Parents Can Help." WebMD. WebMD, 18 Oct. 2006. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.