Body image is a big thing in today’s society. It affects nearly every single woman in America, with around 91% saying that they are unhappy with their bodies. That’s hardly surprising, given that only 5% of women naturally possess the body that is so often revered by the media and popular culture. It affects men too, with nearly 81% saying that they worry about their flaws and imperfections. What is most worrying, though, is just how deeply it is affecting our children. A study by the Girl Guides found that an astonishing one third of girls between seven and ten years old feel judged by their appearance, while a quarter of them feel the need to be perfect. While we strive to give our children the very best in life, we seem to be failing at giving them body confidence, but what exactly is the problem, what are the causes, and is there anything we can do about it?
There are numerous studies on just this issue and they all point to the same conclusion – that our children are suffering. One researcher found that 10% of seven to ten-year-olds have had something mean said to them about the way they look and the American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing found that a massive 80% of ten-year-olds are afraid of being fat. In a study by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), almost a third of nursery and school teachers have heard a child call themselves fat or ugly and 15% of young girls feel embarrassed or ashamed by the way they look. Those are scary statistics but it gets even worse, as Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, explains. It’s about more than having the confidence to wear what you want and be who you are without being judged – although they are great things to have. When people—and children in particular—are persistently judged on how they look, Smethers explains, they are likely to suffer higher levels of depression and mental illness. So by allowing society to affect our child’s body confidence issues, we’re not only giving them low self-esteem but we’re potentially making them ill too.