Wednesday, June 11, 2014

STOP: The Top 10--A Clarification

I've been known to get on these healthy food kicks and make some crazy stuff. Like "chocolate" covered dates that are supposed to taste like caramels (actually pretty yummy) and eggplant bruchetta.

Cauliflower pizza dough is in the lineup for this week.

I hear the collective rolling of the eyes, the moans and groans, the "she's gone too far with this one". I'm used to it.

I'll let you know how it goes.

(I bet you a million dollars it'll be really good. And if it's not, I can't pay you the million anyway, so let's just encourage one another and build one another up--that's 1 Thessalonians 5:11 AND the verse I make my kids repeat when they are on each other's nerves--and say I'm sure it'll be delicious, k?).

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the top ten things I think we should stop saying to our daughters. Things like comparing her to other girls (and ourselves), commenting on her weight or height, and commenting on the size of her clothes are all (and this is strictly my opinion) dangerous and can (again, my opinion) lead to unhealthy habits and body image issues later in life. Sometimes it doesn't even wait until later, as many girls (and some boys) as young as six see themselves in an unflattering light.

I think most people could identify with me, maybe remembering back to comments made by well-intentioned individuals (moms, it seems, are often the guilty party when it comes to making comments about a girls body), only to still be dealing with resentment and bitterness, perhaps even a lack of self-confidence, due to a perceived negativity.

SO! Here's the thing I want to clarify, and I think it's important:

POSITIVE and NEGATIVE comments can be equally as damaging.

I see you shaking your heads. I hear you disagreeing with me.

Just hear me out on this one, and if you still disagree by the end, then we will just have to agree to disagree. (I always hate it when people say that. I can't agree to disagree. Because I disagree. There is no conclusion in this, and it deserves a nice long debate. So. If this is way you feel, too, then I apologize.)

Positive comments are nice. They make us feel good, and mostly, I see nothing wrong with throwing a compliment someone's way. (But you have to mean it, otherwise it comes off as insincere. Trust me.)

However.

When we start commenting on the bodies belonging to our girls, it can give them the idea that physical beauty is what we think is most important, and it can also give them the impression that this is what they need to work on in order to be happy and successful in life.

There is a balance, of course. It's not like you can't say "Hey, you look cute today."

But when the "Hey, you look cute today" turns into "You look great in that miniskirt/bikini/tank top because you're skinny and you can pull it off well", we just turned a nice compliment into an emphasis on being thin in order to look good. It's a fine line to walk, for sure, and we definitely shouldn't be hyper-stressed about always getting it right. But for as many times as I've heard a mother comment on her daughter's perceived heaviness, I've heard a mother comment on her daughter's perceived thinness. The former are always a bit embarrassed. The latter are always super proud.

The problem is that we are placing too much priority in one area: physical beauty/attractiveness, teaching our daughters (and sons) that, whether you're too big, too little or just exactly right, beauty is where it's at, plain and simple.

And it's not just about our girls, either.

Our boys are just as impressionable as our girls, and they hear the comments made about their sisters and female friends, too. They aren't deaf, they aren't dumb, and they are paying attention. They may not always apply it to themselves, although I've heard of a few cases of anorexic boys. The more distressing thing to me is that they apply it to their female counterparts. Not only do they have plenty of magazines that exploit women by showing them as perfect with absolutely no flaws but with 100% sex appeal, when boys hear their mothers making comments about the body of another female, it can give them the impression that girls are made to look good. That beauty should be a top priority, and that they should first rate a girl by how good she looks, even before he gets to know her.

So my number one thing to stop doing?

STOP: The Number One (according to me, of course)
1. STOP PLACING SUCH AN EMPHASIS ON BEAUTY AND PHYSICAL APPEAL.

Go ahead. Spread the emphasis around. Like on responsibility, kindness, respectfulness and, oh, yes, encouraging one another and building one another up.

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