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Help me protect my girls' self esteem

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  • Help me protect my girls' self esteem

    "She's fat."
    "She's skinny."

    This is the conversation I overheard between four preschool girls, as they observed their classmates on the playground. I didn't realize how young it starts, but keiki pay a lot of attention to the world around them. I suppose it's a survival trait, but I want my girls to survive childhood with their self esteem intact. I hope you can help me with some suggestions.

    One thing I want to do is to show my daughters how artifical those images of ideal women are. They need to see the huge production that goes into crafting the perfect faces which haunt them from magazine covers. The casual wind-blown hair isn't that casual, and I've been searching for things which demonstrate that.

    This link is interactive, but you need to wait a minute for "Click Here!" button to show on the right hand side:

    I found a digital artist's portfolio to also be a good source of examples:

    Here's a professional makeup school which likes to brag about the "magic" it performs:

    I once saw this online documentary where they brought in school girls to observe digital artists manipulating photos. The girls had their pictures taken and witnessed their bodies being made more sexier. One of the girls broke down crying. I really wish I could find the link again, but it was years ago. By chance do any of you have a link to that one?

    Makeup. Special lighting. Color "correction". Dozens of rolls of film spent just to capture one "perfect" photo, and then airbrushing the photo to make it "more perfect". Those are the things I want to show my girls. There's a war out there for their minds, and I want them to see the enemy's playbook.

    Any suggestions would be most appreciated. I still have a few years before it becomes a serious issue. I'd like to nip this one in the bud.


    P.S. I just found this article:

    Redbook editor in chief Stacy Morrison defended the changes, telling the "Today" show, "In the end, they're not really photographs. They're images."
    "By concealing your desires, you may trick people into being cruel about the wrong thing." --Steven Aylett, Fain the Sorcerer
    "You gotta get me to the tall corn." --David Mamet, Spartan
    Amateurs talk technology, professionals talk conditions." --(unknown)

  • #2
    Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

    Speaking as someone who has lived with anorexia, I hope I can help you.
    Now, before I go any further, I want to say that I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's all in the past and I'm certainly not the only person who has ever lived with an eating disorder. So please, no flames. You can't make me feel bad about what happened.

    One of the most important things you can do for your girls (and boys, it happens to them, too) is to let them know just how much they are loved. Many times, it's not simple vanity that leads to E.D. It's usually self-esteem issues that are the culprit.
    I remember feeling not good enough when I chose to stop eating. I felt imperfect and unloved. I felt that if I were beautiful, people would love me and I wouldn't be so alone.
    It was also a form of control for me. It was the only thing I had control over in my entire life, actually. Everything else was controlled by an abusive boyfriend. Looking back, I think it was also a form of passive suicide.

    So, I wanted to die, I wanted control over myself, I wanted to be loved, and I wanted to be beautiful.

    What did I equate beauty and perfection with? Being thin, of course.
    Yes, the media will always have a slice of blame in this. All a girl has to do is switch on the T.V. and there's some wispy beauty flaunting her perfection, false as it may be.

    Looking back on it, I can't believe I thought that I was fat. I was a perfectly svelte 118 lbs. before I started, but I couldn't really see it back then. I didn't see myself as obese, but rather, I was not thin enough.
    I remember always telling myself "just five more pounds" and when the five pounds were gone, it started all over again.
    I wound up getting down to 84 lbs. before I got help and I still haven't fully recovered from my E.D.
    I'm telling you, it's destructive. It's not something glamorous, cute, or trivial. It will tear them apart.

    If you want to protect your girls, you should disillusion them about the magic of these women in magazines. But, you should also talk to them about the dangers of these things. You should let them know that they are beautiful and wonderful just the way they are.
    But above all, you must let them know just how much you love them!
    I can't stress that enough.

    If they do show signs of an eating disorder, then you have to step in right away. The sooner, the better.
    Hail to the Chief Bloomenbergensteinenthal, shiksa.


    • #3
      Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

      Teach them to beware of false friends and fashions. Teach them to not give a hoot about what others think.


      • #4
        Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

        get rid of the TV
        Twitter: LookMaICanWrite



        • #5
          Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

          Found another interesting article.

          Originally posted by LonLeroux View Post
          I think it was also a form of passive suicide.
          "By tiny, tiny increments." -- Rob, High Fidelity

          Thanks for sharing a dark time in your life, Lon. I'm glad you survived it. If it happens to my daughters, I hope I'll catch it early.

          Originally posted by SusieMisajon View Post
          Teach them to not give a hoot about what others think.
          So true, Susie, but so hard to do. We're such social creatures. I hope I can teach my girls that the only opinions that matter are from people who have earned their respect. Elizabeth Hurley makes me a sad panda:

          As actress and bikini model Elizabeth Hurley told a British newspaper recently, she so loves being airbrushed to look "thinner" and "younger" that she's taken to Photoshopping her own holiday photos.

          Originally posted by Mike_Lowery View Post
          get rid of the TV
          But Mike, the TV is such a convenient baby sitter!

          Besides, how can my girls find their true loves if they can't gossip about the latest episode of The Office, Grey's Anatomy, House, or BSG?

          "I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like... Books, records, films -- these things matter. Call me shallow but it's the f*ckin' truth, and by this measure I was having one of the best dates of my life." -- Rob, High Fidelity
          Last edited by MyopicJoe; June 2, 2008, 12:00 AM.
          "By concealing your desires, you may trick people into being cruel about the wrong thing." --Steven Aylett, Fain the Sorcerer
          "You gotta get me to the tall corn." --David Mamet, Spartan
          Amateurs talk technology, professionals talk conditions." --(unknown)


          • #6
            Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

            this ended up long, please bear with me....

            MyopicJoe, you have have given such helpful, insightful comments (to me and others).

            We, each parent, can only do our best at making the best choices for our kids.

            i will share with you what my husband (who is headed for Kauai aug. 2008) and i decided to do when considering raising our children (ages 8, 10, 19 & 21).

            first, we chose where we wanted to raise kids. we saved up and bought a home with a yard in a small city (pop. approx. 12000) instead of in the taupe suburbs of kansas city (close to where we work). This was an expensive choice.

            we decided no TV from the day we moved in (we could only get 2 channels anyway) and we wanted to raise our kids without TV for the first 5 years or so. well its been 10+ years with no TV and i am so thankful. everyday i see a reason or example that just supports our choice of no (broadcast) TV. we do DVDs, tho...& most DVDs we rent are ones the kids wouldnt be allowed to watch anyway (we watch when they are asleep). NOTE: this was not the easy choice.

            we chose to home school. when we adopted our teenage daughters from ecuador in 2002 & 2005 (each was 15 y.o. when adopted) we home schooled them as they didnt speak english and were behind in school anyway. (yes, we speak spanish in our home. no we are not latino/hispanic....i am a college spanish professor.) so, when our younger biological children neared school-age, we home schooled them too. again, a choice we are very happy with (now for 5 years).

            we choose what media/info comes into our homes. What we, the parents, choose to read, listen to (radio) and/or watch (internet/DVD) is an example for our kids. they get a variety of magazines from the Cricket magazines for the kids, (grandparents give us their old National Geographic, Smithsonian, Archeology, Auduban, etc. )

            we choose limit "screen time" (DVD/computer). the younger kids, ages 8 & 10, maybe get 15-30 min. of screen time a day. BTW, my husband is a computer/graphic artist and it was his research that lead us to limit computer time until approx. 8-10 y.o.

            and for those that worry about the kids *socialization*, they are very active in suzuki violin and piano lessons, which includes private, group, and theory classes. we are also very much involved in cub/girl scouts. my kids also know their neighbors and play with friends that live on our block. we also have a 18' x 9' play structure pirate ship my husband built for the kids (did i mention he's an artist - sculpture, ceramics, photography, etc.).

            but the most important choice we make (as LonLeroux said) is to tell the kids several times a day that we love them. (my 8 y.o. just read this over my shoulder as i am typing and commented, "thats true").

            I feel like I’m not only up against those images of false media body images, but up against many things from our culture that can be limiting. Many decisions my husband and I make are counter to what our (small town, Midwest/USA) culture. we try to show our kids images from art (in museums and on line) to give them a variety of perspectives of culture throughout history. we talk about body images, women’s accomplishments and cultural issues.
            BTW, our 10 y.o. boy has long hair that he can sit on, and he is NOT circumcised (which I has to explain to anyone who might have changed his diaper when he was little, “don’t pull the foreskin back, please.” Of course our no TV for 10+ years has gotten quite a few comments, some good, but many are…well, what do you do then?

            We can only do our best at making the best choices for our kids. “we” choose to raise our kids and not let the schools, the TV, etc. raise our kids. We talk with them about what they see before or during the experience, not just as a reaction afterwards.

            I ramble….., I just hope I made sense.
            Last edited by kstephen; June 2, 2008, 05:08 AM. Reason: clarity


            • #7
              Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

              It's true about the 'not keeping up with the Jonses' takes years to develop, and takes either confidence or snarkiness or hard knocks or being slighty lolo (I'm not sure which one I am)...but it's never too early to begin to learn about it.


              • #8
                Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

                Listen closely to what your daughters say, at all times. That will give you your best clues as to when you can make the points you want to make most effectively. Their comments will clue you in to the best openings for discussion.

                You might all be watching TV at some point, and see some celebrity gossip piece, to which one of your daughters might say something like, "I don't see why everybody thinks she's so pretty - I think she's too fat." Voila - you have just been given an opening to discuss body issues and popular images, and you don't have to come across as preachy.

                Our children are good at letting us know when they are ready for and open to heavier levels of discussion; we parents aren't always so good at spotting those rare chances.


                • #9
                  Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

                  Look into the mirror and ask yourself why this bothers you and what, if anything, your own attitude towards your body or other bodies has to do with the feeling you have.


                  • #10
                    Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

                    My 8-year-old daugther is thin, and has a high metabolism. My 6-year-old daughter is a wee bit zaftig, but not fat. They wear the same size clothing, sizes 7-8. I have to be very delicate with Kid 2's feelings. She doesn't see herself as fat, she doesn't see herself as inferior, but every once in a while she says things like "I do everything wrong!" or "I am such a dope!" And honestly, no one ever says these things to her. But I say them. So I have to be careful about the program that is running in my mind. I have to change how I see myself. It's so challenging to be a parent.

                    At the moment we are dealing with Kid 1 engaging with some really awful little girls at swim team. They are between the ages of 8 and 10. When we get her after swim team practice, Kid 1 is an unbearable monster. We have put swim team on hiatus for the summer. I hope when it resumes, Kid 1 can have some independence and detatchment from the cruel, mean girls. It affects how Kid 1 treats Kid 2, and Kid 1 can get quite sassy with her parents. Yesterday she was treated to a 16-minute "stand-up, no leaning against the wall" time out. One or two more of those should cure talk-back triggers!

                    Why do we do it? Because we love them so. I've assured both girls that I am happy to embarrass them in public anytime I feel they are being reprehensible. I do not have a problem with embarrassing my kids to make them better people.

                    I guess this is a bit off topic, but I do think that helping secure a daughter's self esteem involves more than looks. It involves building confidence and helping them see the value in making the right decisions, too.
                    Aloha from Lavagal


                    • #11
                      Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

                      Dove soap has a video called 'The Evolution of Beauty', that is very neat to check out. You can find it on Youtube, but maybe this link will work -

                      Some years ago I did a photo shoot for a hairstyle magazine. Waited forever for the issue to come out. When it did, my mom ran out that day and got like four copies. Then called me to say that I wasn't in it. Huh?
                      So I go track down the magazine, and I am in it. At least, I found the pictures of myself. Get this - the pictures were SO airbrushed that my own MOTHER didn't recognize me!! Crazy!!

                      I'd bet that the nationwide applause would be deafening should airbrushing just go away.
                      ~ This is the strangest life I've ever known ~


                      • #12
                        Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

                        My youngest spawn (now almost 40 ) was 13 years old, gangly, gawky, pimply faced, you name it. One day near the end of the school year I walked past the bathroom and saw her checking herself out in the mirror. Not wanting to embarrass her I continued to walk and didn't say a thing. She shouted out to me and what she said absolutely blew me away..."Ya know what, mom? I think I looked pretty good this year."!!! I stopped to look at her and said..."I don't think you look good at all. I think you look absolutely beautiful." That was 1982 and I've never forgotten that short exchange! Priceless.

                        I wish I could take credit for her confidence and self-esteem but I don't think I can. YS had both from birth and a series of health challenges and operations, while it might be the undoing for other children, seemed to strengthen her spirit.

                        Maybe it's birth order...dunno.


                        • #13
                          Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

                          Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem
                          Martial arts, basketball, & surfing.

                          Oprah occasionally does an image show and has the material on her website & magazine.

                          Our teen enjoys picking apart the show "America's Next Top Model"... it's her guilty pleasure.
                          Youth may be wasted on the young, but retirement is wasted on the old.
                          Live like you're dying, invest like you're immortal.
                          We grow old if we stop playing, but it's never too late to have a happy childhood.
                          Forget about who you were-- discover who you are.


                          • #14
                            Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

                            Originally posted by Nords View Post
                            Our teen enjoys picking apart the show "America's Next Top Model"... it's her guilty pleasure.
                            Along the same line, albeit slightly different...working with celebrities over the years, I almost never recognize them when they show up on the set, prior to going into make-up, hair and wardrobe. I've downright embarrassed myself on a couple of occasions! One, in particular, was a well known actress, also known for her beauty, who arrived with a bunch of clothes hung over her arm, no make-up, very plain. I thought she was part of the wardrobe dept. crew so that's where I sent her!

                            And working with models usually leaves me speechless. Altho' they photograph well, their bodies can look so unhealthy when you see them in person.

                            No names...won't go there!


                            • #15
                              Re: Help me protect my girls' self esteem

                              Originally posted by Nords View Post
                              Martial arts, basketball, & surfing.

                              Volleyball, judo, hula, ukulele, theatre, speech team, summer programs, different summer schools (never the same campus as their regular school!), etc. Also, let them join something that YOU canNOT stand, but support them anyway, and show them respect, regardless of how begrudging it is–especially if it is begrudging on your part. (I have made it a point to nearly wail at their choices, never showing them how glad I was that they tuffed it out, but truth be told, my own kids never did join anything that I was vehemently against; I just see great value in encouraging them their independence).

                              Expect the highest out of them. Demand nothing less. Arrow, farther, aimed at sun, blah blah blah.

                              Teach your kids to argue their point. Encourage that they use their voice. Demand that they convince you their point of view. Make them negotiate you, and be judicious when they are right, or deserve a shot. Most importantly, show them how to fight, resolve, problem-solve between you the parents. Make fun of yourselves. And for goodness' sake, 99.9% of the time, let them solve their own problems in school, with bullies, with teachers. That's life.

                              You cannot protect their self-esteem. They must earn it for themselves.