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6 years old is too young to worry about looks

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By Becca Owsley

By BECCA OWSLEY

bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com

This week I saw a report on “Good Morning America” on body image. It wasn’t through the eyes of a 30-year-old woman or even a teenager.

The story was about a 6-year-old who is already obsessed about her body image. What is frightening is that this was not a unique situation.

GMA reported that a 2009 University of Central Florida study found that nearly half of the 3- to 6-year-old participants said they worried about being fat. This is not about a healthy weight or keeping fit. This is about how they look.

To me, this is sad. Our society has become so obsessed with body image that anything resembling a healthy lifestyle has gone completely out the window and another situation has occurred.

If a girl begins developing a poor self-image at the age of three, what is the hope that she will have a healthy view of herself at 20 or 30? A lifelong discipline of low self-esteem and self-loathing is created.

There is a difference between a healthy body and your body image. A healthy body is linked to a good diet and proper exercise, not your waist size. A poor body image can not only lead to unhealthy practices to keep a certain look but can also lead to mental health problems where a girl associates her self-worth to her perception of what she sees in the mirror every day.

Part of the problem is the women the media throw in girls' faces to define what is beautiful. These are usually overly thin actresses or models who boys seem to adore. Older girls see who their favorite heart throb is currently dating and will go to extremes to look like them.

The GMA report also gave another culprit to the problem. Moms, obsessed with their own self-image, who are always talking about hitting the gym to be thin or dieting.

As a society it’s time to draw the line somewhere. Preschool and elementary age little girls should be having tea parties and playing, now worrying if the pretend tea they are serving will make them fat.

Developing an obsession about the outer persona at such a young age is far from healthy. It doesn’t lead to empowerment and it certainly doesn’t lead to a healthy lifestyle. It can lead to a life of depression and unhealthy eating habits or disorders.

To empower the next generation of women, let’s not enslave them to what an unchecked media says is beautiful. Let’s raise them up healthy and happy with who they are as a person and not how they look.

Societal definitions of what is beautiful change throughout time. In an age when size 2 or 4 seem to be desired, remember that at one time society considered a bit of a curve attractive. Marilyn Monroe’s dress sizes varied from 8 to 12 and men adored her. Rita Hayworth was also adored and she had a few curves herself.

My point in mentioning those two Hollywood divas is to remember that definitions of beautiful change throughout time and a young girl should not base her self-view based on distorted societal norms.

Be healthy, yes. But remember thin does not always equal healthy and it’s about how your body is functioning on the inside and not what it looks like on the outside that defines healthy. Just as it is not healthy to become obese, it’s equally unhealthy to obsess about being thin. 

It’s time to raise up a generation of women who have pride in themselves for their accomplishments, inward beauty and character rather than what they look like.

The ever-classy Audrey Hepburn might have said it best.

“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It's the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years." 

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.