Whenever there’s a discussion on beauty, people talk about ‘youth today’ and the pressure they are facing. I don’t believe that’s a new thing that applies only to ‘youth today’ – I remember the horrible emotional swings of teen years and the pressure to be noticed, or not, depending on the day and place! And that was in life before the internet and celebrity culture, Facebook and being ‘on’ 24/7. I can only imagine the world my daughters are growing into, and I won’t lie: it terrifies me.
The media is partly to blame. American teen dramas like Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill depict teenagers as impossibly gorgeous, coiffed to within an inch of perfection. Adding to this is a magazine culture which delights in showing the failures of A-list celebrities, from cellulite to spots. Think about it: Society pressures society to look the way no one in society can!
Redtop newspapers feed off the imperfections of celebs like a vampire sucking a neck – and the more we buy into their spite, the more we indulge insecurities about appearance. But don’t think for a moment that this only applies to teenagers! Ameli is only 6, but she is more fashion conscious than I’ve been in all my life! Aviya is only 3 and today she told me she couldn’t wear her muddy shoes because ‘people will laugh at me’!
Mental health issues
Unrealistic expectations in appearance is having an extreme effect on some teenagers, causing mental health issues in many.
Body Dysmorphia is harming thousands of people, but is criminally overlooked by the media. Essentially, it’s the belief that, no matter what your actual appearance, you could never possibly be beautiful enough. This belief can have an adverse impact on your mental and physical health, with extreme circumstances leading to anorexia and self-harm. If your daughter shows signs of body dysmorphia or any other mental health condition, you may consult with a psychiatric services expert to determine the type of intervention or treatment she needs.
So what can a parent do to assuage their child’s fears and insecurities?
For one, don’t wait till they are teenagers. Start today, reinforcing the value of what’s inside over what’s outside. The beauty of a smile, rather than made up lips.
It’s important not to blow your concerns out of proportion. Remember that every teenager is in a vulnerable and awkward stage of their life. Without approaching a situation with due care, you could end up pushing your teenager further away.
Casually weave your teenager’s body issues into conversation, and don’t push them if they don’t feel like volunteering information. Buy them products that will combat spots if they ask for them, but point out that they shouldn’t feel too pressurised to use cosmetics. Support their healthy bodies now, long before body issues arise.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t pollute your home with beauty magazines and celebrity gossip. While they can be entertaining, their skin-surface obsession will inevitably funnel into your child’s subconscious and what you put in today, you’ll get out tomorrow.
Any reasonable adult knows that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – so don’t let our children get caught in the media’s trap.