Monday, February 20, 2012

When Being Beautiful Turns Ugly

Note: This is something I wrote a few years ago for a column called "Media and the Home." It was a standing feature of Dionna Sanchez's blog, "Inner Fulfillment." I'm no longer a homeschooling mom, but I still have three young women beneath my roof, one of whom is only nine. The topic here is just as relevant today as it was then, and not just for me or for homeschoolers, but for any parent of a girl.

When Being Beautiful Turns Ugly
Parents today are concerned about media influences on their kids, and with good cause. Suicide is the second-highest cause of death among teenagers in the US—after car accidents. Why are so many young people killing themselves?

The answers are complex, and stem from the breakdown of the family, legalized abortion (which devalues human life), the loss of faith in society as a whole (if there's no God, how does life have meaning or purpose?) and, finally, an unrealistic sense of failure to measure up.

Measure up to what?

All too often, the media's idea of how and what they should be. And nowhere is this insidious idea more powerful to young psyches than in the area of appearance. Teens are hard on each other, but not nearly as hard as they can be on themselves, especially when they compare themselves to photo-shopped images. Beauty gets ugly really fast when it takes on visions of perfection that are simply unattainable.

Young women are particularly vulnerable to the society-fueled obsession with weight and appearance, as they are constantly bombarded with images of hyped-up beauty. From Britney to Sleeping Beauty to Barbie, women are supposed to be slim and flawless. School teachers report that girls as young as nine and ten can be heard worrying about over-eating and being on diets. Meanwhile, at the same time, there is so much computer and video game usage today that staying in healthy shape is a greater challenge for today's kids than ever before.

As a parent, I struggle to find ways to affirm my girls' attractiveness—just the way they are—when there is so much out there telling them a different message. At age ten, my middle daughter is now saying to me (when I tell her how beautiful she is), “You only think that because you're my mother!” Or, “You're supposed to say that because I'm your daughter.” She is already internalizing society's message that being “beautiful” is directly correlated to how sexy you are, and what brand or type of clothing you wear. She might not put it that way, but this is what it comes down to.

Where is she getting these ideas?

They are seeping in from all sides! We have a protected environment in our home—to a degree. (No TV, just selected videos and DVDs) but as I mentioned earlier, even Barbie is picture-perfect and skinnier than Twiggy.

On an up note, Dove (the beauty products manufacturer) has produced a video showing the transformation of an ordinary girl (read: could be your daughter. Could be you!) into a super-glamorous billboard model. I had both my daughters view this and my ten-year-old was shocked. It's an eye-opening message we need to get out.

I suggest you view this with your daughters--and your sons(Guys can get unrealistic expectations, too). After viewing the video, make it a point to pick up magazines that show stars “as they really are”. Celebrities hate this, but it's a shot in the arm for girls who are struggling with self-image or self-worth issues (and what girls do not?). Finally, remember to affirm that God has created them specially (they're not an accident); He has a personal plan for their life (purpose); and they ARE beautiful—truly beautiful--in Christ, just the way they are.

Once you watch the video let me know what you think. Do you have an effective method for instilling your girls with a confidence that doesn't come solely from what they see in the mirror? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Warmest Blessings,

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