If we want to nurture healthy body image in our daughters, we've got to wage war on culture. Last year, I put together a short presentation showing how Photoshop is used to totally alter photos of celebrities, models, and people in the spotlight. I used the presentation during workshops for young girls. When the photos came up on the screen showing both the unaltered and the altered photos, we talked openly about what changes the girls could see. A few girls were keenly aware of how media images are tweaked and perfected but many were completely blind to the truth.
By the end of the exercise, the girls were able to understand better why it is impossible to live up to pop culture's version of 'beauty'. It's impossible because the people they see just aren't REAL. They are electronically perfected versions of themselves.
I'm not sure about you, but I certainly don't fit media's 'beauty' mold. Hardly anyone does. That's the idea. We are all striving to fit into a box that is a façade. As grown women we struggle with feelings of inadequacy and we (for the most part) know the images are false. Imagine how much more this affects our daughters who are so impressionable and largely blinded by pop culture's circus. We have millions of girls who feel defeated, ugly, fat, and unworthy of love. That's where the products come in: makeup, clothing, shoes, hair products, skin cleansers, bronzers, tanning creams, firming gels, you name it. Then the attitudes, the relationships, the music, and the desperate attempt to be 'sexy'. Our girls are on this forever quest to attain a perfected beauty that isn't real. It is absolutely unattainable.
I know what many of you are thinking: the media isn't completely to blame for girls feeling worthless. You're right. The media isn't completely to blame. There are many factors in the mix: faith, parents, family background, education, socio-economic climate, emotional health, friendships, and so on. But extensive research has been done proving that when it comes to messages about beauty the MEDIA is the second largest influence on the average North American female between ages 8 and 18. The first influence is her friends. So, we have a continent of girls defining beauty largely based on what their peers and pop culture are telling them. And we wonder why our daughters are falling apart.
Yes, we are overwhelmed with negative messages, but we can stand against the onslaught. We can choose to be set apart and help our daughters stand up for truth. We have to. If we do not fill in the gap, someone else will.
Three things we need to do to Nurture Healthy Body Image and fight the Media's Beauty Lies:
1. Boldly shelter girls from negative messages:
In our family, we decided to toss the television years ago. One of the many reasons we felt strongly about getting rid of it was the totally inappropriate and damaging images of women so frequently found on TV. We've also chosen to stay out of the mall and keep secular magazines and ads out of our house. Our culture is an onslaught of destructive messages about what it means to be a girl, what defines beauty, and what gives women value. As parents we have to stand firm in our convictions and not back down. We've chosen to opt out of many of the typical pop culture trends to protect our daughter from what we believe are unhealthy messages about beauty. There is nothing wrong with shutting out negative images and choosing to live differently.
2. Openly discuss media lies with older girls:
As girls grow, I understand, most will inevitably be subjected to at least some of the images crowding our world. When girls hit this age, it is so important to talk to our daughters about the images they see and what they mean. One of the reasons I am involved with Dove Real Beauty Self-Esteem Workshops is because of my passion for media awareness. These workshops unveil the lies the media is telling our young girls. Girls are made aware of the lies about beauty and can take steps towards standing against them. They discuss openly (as a group) how they feel about commercials, music videos, and advertisements that show women as objects. They discuss topics of ethnic beauty, weight, and what real girls really look like. It's powerful and beautiful.
The first step is awareness. Our daughters need to be aware of what the media is all about. Media depicted beauty is a false perception that needs to be openly discussed in families when the time comes.
3. Fill our girls with biblical truth about beauty.
An overwhelming number of girls stated they could never call themselves beautiful. I believe this is largely because of the lies they are told through pop culture. The majority of preteens are consumed in more than 8 hours of media every single day. How can we possibly combat that? We can't. That's why the first point is to work our hardest to shelter our families from the junk. In place of the garbage, we fill our hearts with truth.
"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4