It’s hard to identify an age when girls tend to become dissatisfied with their bodies – probably because it happens sooner than we like to think. Looking back, I remember feeling fat as young as first grade. A new video from SheKnows Media‘s Hatch program shows that I was far from alone.
In the video, young girls discuss how their body image has been influenced by the media and their friends. One girl reflects on a picture of herself in a bikini at camp in third or fourth grade, when she and her friends were all sucking in their stomachs to try to look skinnier. When they got home after being so active, they would all compare how much weight they had lost like a contest. Another girl remembered a sixth grade birthday party when she and her friends took turns weighing each other.
“Rarely do friends come together to be like, wow, we just look dashing,” one girl shared. It’s the sad truth that many girls and women can feel like it’s not OK to think they’re beautiful. In fear of seeming conceited, joining in on the “fat-talk” can seem like the only option. This creates a vicious cycle where it’s easy to forget that it’s OK to love yourself, your body included.
There are some harrowing statistics in the video as well. Children as young as five express dissatisfaction with their bodies – and it has consequences. 1.3 million adolescent girls in the U.S. suffer from anorexia, a disease that has one of the highest suicide rates of any psychiatric condition.
The girls in the video are impressively articulate in describing where these unrealistic beauty standards stem from: the media. “In the media you see all these images of the ideal body type and how you should be really skinny and look a certain way and be a certain weight,” one participant said. Another piped in, “You’ll look at pictures and think ‘I wish I had that body’ but it’s not really possible.”
One girl perfectly summarized the struggle between insulting your body with your friends and seeing realistic images in the media, saying, “You can pick out all your flaws, and then society does that as well for you.”
Don’t worry – the video concludes on a reassuring note. The workshop ended with participants drawing self-portraits meant to highlight what they like about themselves, to teach them how to appreciate their bodies.
It’s a lesson we can all learn something from, and it certainly seems to have helped the girls there reassess their self-worth. One of the young girls participating said it best: “Other people think you’re prettier than you may think you are. You shouldn’t be doubting yourself.”