Body shaming starts with the belief that there is an ideal standard of beauty. When that standard is not met, girls criticize, compare, and begin to hate how they look. Body shame shows up as judgment and comparison, and it runs rampant among teenage girls. The shaming cycle begins as soon as they feel less than or different from the ideal. If it’s not stopped it can lead to eating disorders, depression, and self-harm.
Why teens body shame
For teen girls, body-pride is a double-edged sword. They believe that their tiniest appreciation of how they look is conceited or stuck-up. The other edge of the sword is self-deprecation, or body-shaming. Listen to any teen girls’ conversations and you’re likely to hear complaints about appearance: “I hate my hair.” “My thighs are too big.” “I’m so short!” In some cases, these comments are bait for compliments or attention, but in many cases girls believe they need a disclaimer for how they look. Even more disturbing is the fact that girls often equate their looks to their happiness. Many teens believe the fallacy of being happy when…
“I fit in a size two.”
“My acne clears up.”
”I get my hair straightened.“
How to overcome body shaming
Your daughter might not realize when she’s sucked into the cycle of body shame. When you hear her make a negative comment about how she looks or if you overhear a self-deprecating conversation, ask her, “How does talking that way about yourself help?” Encourage her to think about alternatives by asking, “Is there a kinder way you can talk to yourself about yourself?”
Focus on a healthy lifestyle. This includes looking and feeling good. Acknowledge that it is OK to care about looking her best, but obsessing about it only steals from her happiness (and beauty). Teach your teen to accept, appreciate, and care for her changing body.
Social media is the most common trigger of body shame so encourage your daughter to think about what’s on her screen. Talk about why people post certain photos and videos. Invite her to consider her motivation, or the motivation of others, for posting images or videos. Start a discussion about the messages certain photos and videos convey. Consider opening up about how you choose what to share on social media.
Support a healthy, balanced self-image, one that goes beyond outer appearances, by focusing on your daughter’s inner qualities. Acknowledge the strengths and values that make her beautiful and unique. Positively reinforce her talents, skills, and how she treats other people. Find examples of people whose beauty shines from within.
Notice when you start to shame yourself and stop! Say out loud, I’m not doing that anymore. I’m practicing being kinder to myself because it makes me feel so much better. Show your teen how you are practicing self-compassion and give her a language to do the same.