The age girls start to feel badly about their bodies is younger than ever

In many ways, we live in an age of amazing body positivity. We are taking a stand against ads that promote unrealistic standards and shame women of healthy sizes. Our First Lady is all about health & wellness. There are even rad plus-sized fashion lines (FINALLY!) starting to go mainstream. Unfortunately, not all the news on the body image front is good. According to a new Yahoo health survey, girls are starting to feel badly about their bodies a much earlier age.

Survey of 1,993 teens and adults ages 13-64, researchers found that American women remember feeling ashamed of their bodies between 13 and 14 years old. That said, teens between the ages of 13 and 17 remember feeling badly about their bodies for the first time around 9 or 10 years old. So what’s behind body negativity becoming a part of the elementary school experience?

Well, if you think about the lightning-fast pace of modern technology, it starts to make sense. Kids these days(™) are doing everything earlier, right? Elementary schoolers have smart phones and Facebooks, and are “growing up” in many ways a lot earlier than previous generations. It’s not just roadside billboards or TV ads anymore. We are all constantly inundated with glamorized and photoshopped images of stars on social media, internet ads, and email spam. (And I mean, come on…a website that rates how hot you are? That’s not exactly helping the body positivity cause.)

But one write up of the story says the old-fashioned culprits are still responsible for a lot of body-shame felt by young girls. 25% of folks admitted that their parents contributed to them feeling awkward or uncomfortable in their own skin. And for a whopping 60%, it was because a friend or classmate pointed out something about their physical appearance.

Not cool, guys. We all know that friendship can be the healthiest thing ever – so it really sucks when your peers are actually the cause of self-consciousness and shame.

The amazing news? We are taking all this shame and reclaiming our bodies to be the most body POSITIVE generation ever. Children who identify as having body-shaming parents “are twice as likely to be body-positive as adults” Yahoo reports. “In fact, children of body shamers are helping to drive the body-positive movement, fueled by their own experiences.”

But it’s still crucial to help our girls as they jump that ridiculously hard hurdle from child-to-adult that is puberty. Robyn Silverman, author of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, recommends being really proactive with our own kids on this issue. She suggests making sure girls see casual, street pictures of celebrities running errands in addition to the glitzy photoshopped ones on magazine covers. Taylor Swift and Beyonce are real human women just like us (as hard as it might be to think otherwise!!) and NOBODY really looks like the cover of Vogue IRL.

Molly Galbraith is just one such woman: showing us that it’s oh, so possible to love our bodies right where they’re at. Tess Holliday, model and fashion designer, is another. Even Forever 21 is finally admitting that women of all shapes and sizes like to work out and should look amazing while doing so. So let’s #EffYourBeautyStandards and break all the beauty “rules.” For the younger generations of girls to come, for each other, and for ourselves.

(Image via Fox Searchlight)

Debbie Holloway
Debbie Holloway lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works closely with Narrative Muse, a fast-growing source for movies, TV, and books created by and about women and gender diverse folks. Read more
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