Little Kids and Negative Body Image by Kimberley Johnson

Recently, I had the opportunity to be a guest on On The Street with Wayne Metrano. Wayne said he thought things were improving where body image and the media is concerned. I vehemently disagreed with him. I cited an ABC news article titled;
Body Image Issues: Six-Year-Old Worries She’s Fat
This is very disturbing on so many levels. How does this child come to the conclusion that she is fat?
My girlfriend told me that her seven year old daughter said something similar. I know this little girl and there is not an ounce of fat on her. But that is really not the issue. The issue is that children at extremely young ages are now negatively focusing on the way they look.
I have a very distinct memory of when I was six. I was in the first grade and two of my little girlfriends and I were in the restroom. We were all talking about how much we weighed. My friends weighed fifty pounds. I weighed sixty. I was significantly taller than most my age, so it is not surprising I weighed more. I do remember feeling slightly self-conscious about it but as soon as we left the restroom, I didn’t think about it again. I do find it curious though, that it remains such a clear memory for me. It illustrates how my being tall has always played a part in how I view myself. Even in that moment, it felt like a negative for me.
As much as I would have preferred to be the same height as my peers, when I was six, the idea of seeing myself as fat, well, let’s just say it was a non-issue. The poor six-year-old in the referenced article has already been conditioned by the media and society to put a significant amount of focus on her outward appearance. Things are not improving, they are getting worse and out of control.
This morning as I logged on to my computer, I saw an article that Kim Kardashian had her rear-end x-rayed to prove she has not had implants. Really??? I mean REALLY??? I don’t seek out this kind of information out but I am aware of it. I see headlines online, at the grocery store and as teasers for entertainment news programs. These are not healthy messages. Yet it is totally acceptable. We get used to it. Can you imagine if in the 1920’s, the cover of a magazine zeroed in on celebrities’ cellulite? It’s been a slow process.
Body image will always be important to human beings. We care about how we look and what others think of us. In the last twenty years, it has become increasingly difficult to look in the mirror and feel happy with what God gave us. Teens are getting caps on their teeth, plastic surgery, botox and breast implants! When we see this all the time, a manufactured kind of beauty, we become conditioned to it.
This is an issue that has no easy answer. It’s, in part,  a combination of parents and the media. For instance, parents can instill a healthy body image but if a child watches television or movies, the images and the pressure to look a certain way will negate much of the positive influence from family.
It’s like the government. Until enough people demand real change, nothing WILL change. Magazines only make money because the public buys them. We accept models who have eating disorders. We actually perpetuate it. 
It’s fine and dandy that articles are written about how we should love ourselves they way we are but an article in a beauty magazine making that suggestion is not going to undo years and years of conditioning. At best, it makes the reader think about it for a few minutes until they turn the page and see that impossibly skinny model who has been altered to look skinnier and then all of the insecurities come flooding back in and the impact of that article quickly erodes.
As I write this, I feel so powerless. I think people will read it and agree but will do nothing about it. I hope that at least, you think about it and make a decision to change one thing that helps to perpetuate the negative message that you have to look a certain way in order to be loved, happy or successful.
I used to buy all the beauty and fashion magazines. Now I don’t. What change are you willing to make?

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011


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