A two-year study by the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls (a title that has the stench of body consciousness) revealed that products and marketing that target tween girls are linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression, and early sexual activity. (AKA: They create body consciousness.) Isn’t it ironic that instead of making girls feel good about their bodies, all these “beauty” products make our daughters—and sometimes us—feel fat or unattractive? Body consciousness will not serve your daughter well.
Here are the two big overriding risks of body-conscious living.
1. Body consciousness creates a hyper awareness of every flaw, unique beauty mark, or divergence from the media’s norm of beauty.
This hyperawareness influences the way your daughter cares for herself and can be lethal. For example, consider the way tween girls think about food. The Washington Post has lamented the growing number of younger and younger patients at eating disorder clinics around the nation.
“A decade ago, new eating disorder patients at Children’s National Medical Center tended to be around age 15,” says Adelaide Robb, director of inpatient psychiatry. “Today kids come in as young as 5 and 6.”
Low self-esteem, depression, and an early sexual debut—which are all related to what our girls believe about their bodies and their beauty—are big risks when our girls become victims of body consciousness. Before we know it, hyper awareness of a crooked tooth or a zit becomes an excuse for cutting or drives our once-giggling girls into a deep depression. It has to stop!
2. More harmful still, body consciousness creates an extreme focus on the body at the expense of your daughter’s spirit.
Children are supposed to be learning right from wrong between the ages of eight and ten, not how to accessorize an outfit or put on mascara. They should be learning to live healthy emotional, mental, and spiritual lives, not getting lost in tween dating drama or competitive unofficial beauty contests at school. If they fall prey to society’s body-conscious norms, they will become overly focused on their external beauty, often at the expense of tending to their spirit.
Consider this—the average (that is, normal) person between the ages of nine and seventeen scores as high on anxiety scales as children who were admitted to psychological clinics for severe disorders in the 1950s. We simply have not been tending to the spirits of our children or teaching them the art of tending their own spirits. (All the while, their name-brand duds are often picture perfect!)
God laid a foundation for the questions we’d face about our bodies. It’s recorded in the story of creation.
"Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them"
We are creating in the image of God! Let that be a reminder for you, for your daughter, today and everyday!
(This is an excerpt from Raising Body Confident Daughters: 8 Conversations to Have With Your Tween by Dannah Gresh.)
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