By: Pat McGettigan, MS, Licensed Psychologist
Holy Redeemer Counseling Center
It’s summertime and we are inundated with images of the perfect beach bodies on the cover of many women’s, celebrity news and health magazines, accompanied by countless articles and “recipes” on how to achieve that body.
Sure, everyone knows that those photos have been air-brushed to look as perfect as they do. However, I have heard so many women say that when they are in the department store dressing room trying on bathing suits and looking in the mirror those “perfect” bodies resonate with them. As a psychologist, I have sat across from women for 25 plus years and have heard the pain many women feel when they talk about what they see as their less than perfect bodies; women whose self-esteem is wrapped up in how they feel about their bodies.
I am talking about young women who have been on diets since they were 10 because they thought, or were even told, that they were getting fat. Unfortunately, girls are still often judged on their looks. So from an early age they learn that their appearance is important and in particular the size or shape of their body. Their self-worth often begins to be measured by how they and others feel about their bodies.
The messages parents, families, teachers and other important adults give young girls are important and lasting. Here are some tips to remember when talking to your girls:
- Be aware of your own biases about body image as those biases will color what you teach the girls. In other words, do you yourself think those perfect beach bodies are actually achievable and important goals?
- Talk lovingly and realistically about health and nutrition and the uniqueness of each person’s body.
- Let the girls know that they are loved for who they are inside and not for how they look outside. That is a message that can help instill confidence in them.
- Be authentic—remember they hear us even when we are not speaking to them directly. Be sure what you say to them about body image is what you are saying to others, and yourself.
Following these tips can help lay the foundation for building positive self-esteem and self-image. So one day when they are in that dressing room trying on bathing suits and they look in the mirror they have a better chance of saying “mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all – me” because they like who they are.
If you or someone you know is suffering from negative feelings about body image or beginning to show signs of a more serious problem, it may be time to seek professional help. The Holy Redeemer Counseling Center is here for you. Our team includes certified and licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselors, licensed psychologists and licensed clinical social workers.
To learn more about the Holy Redeemer Counseling Center, visit our webpage or call 215-914-4190.