Renee Engeln author of Beauty Sick speaks to the heart of my brief last strategy for developing a positive body image when she says:
Women with a positive body image care about how they look. They still want to feel attractive . . .They just don’t hinge most or all of their sense of self worth on whether OTHERS find them attractive.
Not relying on others for their self worth is a big ask in adolescence where our kids just want to fit in with their peers. And, it is a big ask for women, as Paul Campos says in The Diet Myth, “We live in a culture that tells the average American woman dozens of times per day that the shape of her body is the most important thing about her.”
Beef up other parts of self-worth
Given our culture and our adolescent children, what others think of how they look isn’t going to disappear from their world. But, maybe we can make it matter less. Maybe we can help them find other pieces of themselves to hinge their sense of self-worth upon and grow those, That way the appearance piece of the pie will just be a smaller part of their day.
The day my oldest son was born I remember looking at him and feeling a weight of responsibility. I specifically thought: What if this beautiful boy happens to be Mozart and I forget to get him music lessons? (This could have been the morphine from the C-section talking!) What if he had a unique potential to be some thing, and I missed the opportunity to provide him with what he needed to get there?
What I learned from my raising my boys is that each child has a bit of Mozart in them. They each have an inherited kernel of talent and drive to become who they need to be. A child just needs to be given the right circumstances and options to meet their potential.
From our perspective as parents, it's our attunement to them, our ability to read the particular child in front of us, that can be the help they need to get in touch with their authentic self.
This suggestion is to find something they could focus on that they’d value in themselves instead of relying on their body so much for their self worth. This isn’t about taking up a hobby like bowling or finding another notch on the college application list. To actually expand their sense of themselves, what they are doing needs to mean something to them. It has to be something that they could value in themselves.
So, how do you help your child find these authentic pieces of themselves? This is about being attuned and reading your particular child. Often we as parents are parenting smaller versions of ourselves, or even a fantasy, perfect child in our mind. We do this even with our child and her own unique possibilities standing right there in front of us. My suggestion is to look for clues and read your child:
- What does your child choose to do her spare time?
- Does he love to read? Draw? Dance? Make music? Create things?
- What she is doing when she is happiest and at ease?
- What does he love to play?
- How does she love to move?
- Do you notice something about your child could support, highlight or enhance?
I think this focus on figuring out what they love is an opportunity for you to find other joys and ways for them to value, develop, and define themselves, so their appearance slice of the self-worth pie is smaller.
- Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor, Body Respect, 2014.
- Paul Campos, The Diet Myth, 2005.
- Carolyn Costin, Your Dieting Daughter, 2013 (2nd edition).
- Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb, 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder Workbook, 2017.
- Renee Engeln, Beauty Sick, 2017.
- Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel, Beyond a Shadow of a Diet, 2014 (2nd edition).
- Susie Orbach, Fat is a Feminist Issue, 2006 (2nd edition).
- Rachel Simmons, Enough As She Is, 2018.
- Julia V. Taylor, The Body Image Workbook for Teens, 2014.
- Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works, 2012 (3rd edition). I boil down some of the essence of this book to 8 steps in MyBodyMySelf Post-its.
- Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch,Intuitive Eating Workbook: 10 Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food, 2017.
Favorite Podcast: Cristy Harrison's FoodPscyhe.
Favorite Blogger: Isabel Foxen Duke, Stop Fighting Food. If you are interested, google Isabel on YouTube; she does lots of interviews with host of different podcasts.