Hazel Jane

Body Confidence, Media, and the Younger Generation

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IMG_4129The other day I was procrastinating, when something stopped me in my tracks. An article about Lego Magazine giving girls aged 5-12 advice on how to be prettier.

Quite a normal occurrence to see media telling us what to do in order to better our appearance, isn’t it? But what I found sad, is this quote from Sharon Holbrook’s post:

‘“My little girl, the shape of her face, and whether her haircut is flattering are none of Lego’s concern,” she wrote.

“It wasn’t even her concern until a toy magazine told her to start worrying about it.”

And it was as if the age old question that gets churned time and time again came spilling out of the computer screen once more.

Are we inadvertently taught to not love ourselves from an early age?

What I mean is, are we born with innate confidence issues? Or are we simply taught it at a young age?

Either way would be sad, seeing as no one should suffer from self-loathing, but there’s something so callous about it maybe not being our fault, or not being something completely natural. I for one can’t remember feeling terrible about myself when I was seven. Instead, I remember having a ‘Lego haircut’ (the irony right there) and matching my orange Lion King leggings with an identical t shirt.

I also remember having a boy in my swimming class telling me I was fat. And that’s kind of where things fell apart.

I had no feelings towards my weight till then; I just ate what was given to me and did a lot of dancing, running around with water guns, or playing badminton and football with my brother. The simple life. An active one, when you think about it. All I wanted to do was run around and put on the dance mat rather than play videogames.

But after that comment all I saw was my prettier, slimmer friends around me, and my protruding stomach that was inexplicably pointed out.

Years on from there, and there’s so many things that caused me to want to change. Someone or somewhere told me that blondes were prettier, making me hate my naturally black hair. Another told me that only short girls were cute, making me feel lanky. Sleepovers were spent listening to other girls complain about their weight, knowing that I was slightly heavier, and therefore thinking I was obese. But I wasn’t. I was tubby, but that plus my dark hair and taller frame didn’t make me any less pretty. Try telling that to a girl who constantly hears the opposite, though, and it falls on deaf ears.

When you’re young, it’s as if there’s no other beauty out there. Just that obvious one of the girl next door plastered on Sugar or Sneak magazine, the one that every little girl talks about, the popstar every girl wants to be. We all grow up with one kind of beautiful in the media, with tips on how to get to that apparently ‘attainable’ beauty, even though every single person is different. It’s like we don’t stand a chance.

It’s only when we get a bit older that we realise that every person is their own kind of beautiful – but for many of us it’s too late. No matter how many adverts come out with beautiful people who don’t fit the ‘standard beauty’, and no matter how many people I see who have the same body type as me and look absolutely gorgeous, I’m always going to look at my own stomach and think it’s wrong because it’s different to what was expected when I was younger.

Maybe I won’t ever get over the detrimental lessons on beauty that I was taught at a young age, but maybe, just maybe I could try and help the younger generation now. We all could.

We can’t stop the media from showing us our ‘flaws’, we can’t stop them from giving us 1000 ways to make ourselves ‘better’. We can’t stop people talking about what they think is pretty or ‘right’. But we can at least change how we react to these things. Remind ourselves, and the children growing up now, that every single kind of person is absolutely beautiful, even the girl next door in all of the media, even the other girls that aren’t in the media. Everyone is.  And you don’t need the latest cream or make-up to look prettier, but if it makes you feel confident, you damn buy it because you want to, not because you have to.

If we could all love ourselves now, right this second, we’d be setting a good standard for the younger generation. It’s good to tell your child that they should love themselves, but maybe the only way of making them believe it, is to give them an example. An example of someone who doesn’t look like the ideal that is being handed to them at school or in their magazines, but someone who still loves themselves and is still beautiful in her own way.

And the sooner we can teach that to the younger generation, the better.

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