In this post, Rachna raises pertinent concerns about this generation's unhealthy obsession with physical beauty and letting it mess with their self-esteem.....
Little girls even before their teenage years are dieting these days. Ask any adolescent and chances are that she is unhappy with the way she looks. Food is a cuss word for her. It makes her fat! Fat is ugly; it is undesirable! She wants to look hot and hip just like those models that prance around on TV, adorn the cover of magazines, are arm candies of all the hot guys she loves and play out larger-than-life roles in her mind’s eyes. Young ladies are depressed, deflated fighting this battle to look a little more thin and a little more fair. The marketers whose sales are on the rise are laughing their way to banks. And no, they are not the only ones to blame. Yes, they promote an aspirational standard of beauty in society to peddle their wares – read beauty products, fairness creams, health foods etc. But, you my dear sweetie, yes YOU the parent are equally responsible. What you look at me incredulously? What did you do?
For starters, children derive their comfort, their self-esteem from their parents first and later from the society. And as a recently shared advertisement openly pointed out, children mirror their parents’ behavior as well as thinking and aspirations. In their formative years, you are the one they turn to when they are teased. You are the one they look to for affirmation for their own self-worth. And what do they get? Do they find a parent who actually teaches them to love their incredible bodies and self? Does the parent convey to them that they are accepted and loved just the way they are? Does the parent love her own self is a question worthy of asking?
Yes, we have moms who are obsessed with losing weight. They have deadlines --5 kgs. in one month for a wedding they have to attend. They are so unhappy that they are unable to appreciate the perfectly good looking bodies that they have. I have seen so many gorgeous women stressing out over that extra inch or couple of kilos that they still (imagine to) have extra. They don’t eat right, are obsessed with weight gain and get even more depressed when they don’t achieve their crazy targets. Binges and more guilt follows. All the while, your child is absorbing that only a particular size of body is good and desirable. That fat is bad, and thin is good – at any cost!
Do you make an apologetic face when someone points out your child’s dark complexion? Your child is observing your reaction feeling much more dejected at your reaction and internalizes it. When the child when pulled up by a mean friend for being fat or dark, she replays these episodes and reconfirms that indeed, all these are ugly because mommy and daddy also feel so. Have the parents taught her to love herself for being this brilliant, witty and sweet girl? No. They have taught her that she must punish her stupid body because it is fat or dark or short. And they have irrevocably taught her that looks are more important than her inner self without even saying so.
With this poor body esteem and low self-esteem, the child becomes an easy target for jokes and sets herself up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating and crazy routines. Now, tell me, who is more responsible -- the marketers or the parents at home-- for teenagers who start suffering from anorexia and bulimia and for girls who kill themselves to fit into a dress!
Can we not be kinder to ourselves first? Eating healthy and exercising is important for every single person! This is what must be practiced at home and inculcated in kids – not an obsession with weight and color. Weight is never a parameter of your health! Your fitness and stamina is. Sorry to burst your bubble but people of varying weights who are all at the same fitness level have almost similar health risks. So there goes your crap about fat being unhealthy. And don’t tell me you haven’t come across sickly slim people.
Yes, get over your obsession with your body. You will do your child a great service. Love yourself, your body for it does for you every single day despite all the terrible diets and punishments that you have put it through. Once you accept yourself a bit more, make sure you teach your child from early on to accept and love herself the way nature made her. You will see that she can brace any meanies out there armed with this confidence and self-esteem and perhaps she will break a few beauty stereotypes on her own!
Happiness always comes from true self love. Unless we accept ourselves, no one else will either!