By Morgan Paul
Earlier this week I sat down with a good friend of mine to talk about body image. While I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive peer ground, I wanted to know how they became so supportive. Bailey and I met in the 6th grade, but it’s only been the past few years that I began to notice her body positivity. As a child she said that she was unhappy with her body, as most children are, but she also told me that when she would talk to her friends about her insecurities they would agree with her. So not only was she having these negative thoughts, but they were then being reinforced by her peers.
When kids openly talk about insecurities, it normalizes the notion that we should be unhappy with our bodies, and schools don’t help this idea. There is no intervention to body negative talk, and no support for body positive talk. When I asked Bailey about public school health classes she said that they leave things too broad. She believes that “schools should ask kids what they think, get opinions, and let them know that there are people they can talk to.” Growing up in public school I would have to agree that schools do next to nothing to inform students about health or to promote body positivity. We spent the majority of the time in my high school health class watching movies like Transformers and Cool Running.
Bailey was fortunate, as many of us are, to have access to alternative media. She soon began to think independently and stopped responding to the media’s images of women. She believes that media is a significant cause of insecurities and that exposing children to media so young is not healthy. She also explained that actresses in kid’s shows are too old to be playing the parts. Bailey found herself wanting to look like the character who is 16, but really she was trying to look more like the actress who was around age 25. Pressures from the media like this one are causing kids to grow up too quickly. Another example is the way break-ups are perceived in the media. We naturally get defensive and want to compare ourselves to their new partner, but Bailey says that we should focus more on the fact that there was obviously a problem in that relationship and that you should just be happy that you got out of it. She also says that it is never healthy to compare yourself to others. “Everyone is on their own journey,” she said, so you are not any better or worse than anybody else, you’re simply at a different part of your journey.
One of the things that stood out to me most in our discussion was when Bailey said “The amount of beauty you see in yourself you should see equally in other people.” I find that an important rule to live by, no matter how hard you try. Balance your negative thoughts with positive ones. I have been talking a lot about loving your body, but Bailey made me rethink my approach when she told me “you don’t have to love your body, but you need to love yourself.” It’s such a subtle approach to the significance placed on beauty. When we say “love yourself” people assume body, but really you need to love all of yourself. Love your imperfections and your talents and your quirks. “Loving yourself is the greatest thing you can ever do and loving yourself and others goes hand in hand,” Bailey said. “Any way that you want to better yourself and life, loving yourself will help you get there. You’ll be surprised.”