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“I imagine a girl sitting in front of a mirror, touching her hair <looking at her reflection> wanting to change things.” -teenage girl when asked what came to mind when she heard body image
Courage and Confidence Challenge #1 – Neutralize Pretty
Take a moment and consider how often you focus your compliments and judgements on physical appearance.
Instead, try this at least once today: Skip the physical appearance commentary. Instead focus your encouragements to your daughter and the girls and women in your life on their intellect, work ethic, strength, and character. Like how badass she is for sticking with that challenging math problem, her relentlessness on the field, her contagious laugh, how strong she is for walking into school on a tough day, etc. As a rule, this type of encouragement should happen about 10 times as much as praise focused on physical beauty.
“Imagine a girl sitting in front of a mirror, touching her hair <looking at her reflection> wanting to change things.” -teenage girl when asked what came to mind when she heard body image
For two years, we interviewed over 100 girls and young women primarily from across the United States for the What’s Your Brave project. They varied as much as a population can — by religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, academic success and even ambition and desires for their life. Yet, when the topic of body image came up, there was almost a universal anguish expressed by the weight of feeling valued and judged first and foremost by their physical appearance and more specifically, how closely they lived up to a beauty standard that is literally unattainable.
It’s not in their heads. The research confirms what we know from experience. Girls are inundated with messages about what they are supposed to look like — over 250,000 times before they reach adulthood – when the onslaught continues full force. Research shows conclusively that this environment is having subtle to profound consequences on our girls’ psychological, physical, and emotional well-being. The media and cultural messaging is slowly expanding the definition of what it means to be beautiful and that’s a good thing.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with telling someone how beautiful they look or how much you love their dress; the problem is that the overwhelming cultural narrative still equates worth with physical appearance.
Let’s remind our girls (and ourselves) that building confidence doesn’t come from a mascara bottle and isn’t based on an arbitrary standard and cultural obsession that is ever-changing and they can’t control.
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