The Skinny on Body Image

by Betsy MacDonald

We know how damaging it can be to someone’s self-esteem to have their body or appearance criticized. What tends to be downplayed is the potentially harmful affect of complimenting someone for losing weight. This blog post from Beauty Redefined provides an amazing analysis of this phenomenon, and how we need to stop scrutinizing each other’s (and our own) bodies. The story really resonated with me and I posted the following on Facebook:

In the months after giving birth to my daughter Alison, I lost a lot of weight from breastfeeding. (She was very hungry.) I started getting a lot of comments from people about how great I looked. They would describe me with adjectives like “trim,” “fit,” and even “skinny,” thinking they were complimenting me. Embedded in those comments, however, were a number of underlying messages, such as: a) you didn’t look that great before, b) you should strive to be skinny, and c) your looks matter more than other personal qualities. Appearance-based compliments can actually have a negative impact on women and girls’ self-esteem. Comments like “you’ve lost weight” contribute to a societal policing of women’s bodies that is linked with eating disorders, depression and anxiety. Instead of focusing on how we and others look, why don’t we celebrate our achievements and strengths? I want my daughter growing up thinking she is more than her appearance. But it’s going to take more than just me, one parent, to replace the harmful messages with positive ones. Let’s eliminate “you look so skinny” and similar phrases from our collective vocabulary, OK?

This entry was posted in culture, girls, hypersexualization, stories. Bookmark the permalink.

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