What if a small comment we make about ourselves when trying on a new dress has a bigger impact on our girl's self-esteem than we like to imagine? Kristy Wood explores the effect that our self-talk has on the girls who are looking on.
I was recently talking to a group of girls aged 11 and 12 years and we were discussing what influences how they feel about themselves and their body. They shared how when they hear women in their lives like their mums, aunties, older sisters, family friends, teachers etc. talk about themselves and their bodies - this influences them more and makes a bigger difference to them than what they see in the media. They said the media for them kind of comes second to this.
One girl shared an experience of going shopping with a woman in her family. They were going to buy a dress for a special event that the woman was going to. The girl shared how they were excited driving to the shops together and having a ‘girls’ day’. They were having a great time together looking at different clothes, and picking out different dresses for the woman to try on. The girl then shared how when they were in the changing room they overheard a woman in the next change room ask the shop assistant to get her a size six dress. The shop assistant said ‘of course, the size 8 would swim on you, you’re so tiny.’
The girl shared how the woman she was with then started to judge herself and the fun they were having stopped. She said her mood changed instantly and she didn’t want to try on anymore clothes. The girl said because the woman was bigger than a size 6 she started to feel bad about herself and put herself down and for the rest of the day this stayed with them; that they didn’t talk as much and it was just kind of flat.
I asked the girl what impact this had on her and she shared how she had the same body shape as this woman and hearing and seeing this, made her also start to worry about her body and think that she wasn’t good enough.
This experience is one that most of us as women can relate to – of going to the shops and trying on new clothes, of comparing to other women, of putting ourselves down or judging our bodies or being overly critical. It’s what I grew up with and we have just pretty much accepted this as fairly ‘normal’ self-talk.
But do we often stop to consider the impacts this kind of self-devaluing and comparison has on everyone around us? This example highlights the responsibility we have as women to love and appreciate ourselves and our bodies.
While it is important to still ask for this in our media, what’s more important is that we raise girls in an environment where the women in their lives value and appreciate themselves.
What these girls shared really makes you stop and consider, that every time we judge, criticise, critique or condemn our bodies - we are also telling our girls that they are not worth it.
Self love and caring for ourselves is not an indulgence, it is a responsibility.
To really be able to hold ourselves as women and for us to also withstand the many pictures and pressures we face of how we need to be, a foundation of self love is essential both for us and the young people in our lives.
By Kristy Wood