Body image is something that most women struggle with at least at some point in their lives. And if you’ve stumbled onto this page, and are still reading, you are probably a mother who has experienced the struggle body image awareness during her lifetime. And now you’re wondering how to pass on a positive body image awareness to your children.

I grew up in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. In fact, I entered high school in the year 2000. This era is widely known for the ideal body image for women and girls to be extremely skinny. Girls and women were pushed to be tiny and it was considered attractive to have your hip bones jutting out, extreme low-rise jeans sitting low on a flat stomach with the straps of your thong coming out over the top.

Think Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton.
Face Joint Leg White Shorts

To say that the portrayal of these body types was detrimental to young women and girls is an understatement. Although I was naturally slender throughout high school and most of college, I still found myself wanting my hip bones to stick out even more.

I hated my J-Lo style butt and as I got older, I found myself wishing that I didn’t have such an hourglass figure. The only time I remember liking my body and being proud of it in high school was when I dropped to a dangerously low 94 pounds after having a severe allergic reaction to a medication. And even then, when I started to gain the weight back (up to 107 pounds) I was told by a boy that I was “getting fat.”

And here I am at 35 years old, and I can remember that moment, and that feeling, from 20 years ago like it was yesterday.

I was lucky enough not to go into a total downward spiral but I know plenty of girls who did. I went to a private school, and research shows that affluent, white girls are 4 times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than girls of minorities or lower socioeconomic status. That proved to be true in my high school, as it was (and still is) all around the United States.

You might be thinking, “Well, luckily the ideal body type has changed to a curvier and more natural figure.”

But is that lucky?
Or do we just damage the girls who don’t fit that ideal body type?

That, my friends, is why positive body image awareness is so important. Because body image awareness is not about what society thinks. It’s about what the individual thinks about themselves. And the only person who can make you feel intrinsically confident about yourself IS YOU.

Now I am a 35-year-old mother of three girls. I have always cared about the way my body looks, and I fear that I project that onto my daughters with my own negative self-talk. I don’t know whether I care about the look of my body because of how I grew up and how society treats women in terms of their looks, or if it is just a part of my nature. Either way, I have had to teach myself to look at my body as a catalyst for health, not for looks, so as to make sure my three girls grow up treating their bodies with kindness and understanding that eating right and exercising is for health, not for looks.

But being a girl mom makes you keenly aware of how society operates when it comes to the female body. Although positive body image awareness has come a long way even from when I was a teenager, it still has a long way to go.

Although the ideal body image has moved away from the extremely skinny and more towards Kardashian-type curves, it doesn’t change the fact that there is societal pressure to look a certain way. The “strong not skinny” movement is amazing, and really celebrates a woman’s body for all that it can do. But you still have girls out there that don’t fit that type, and end up going to extremes trying to achieve it.

Social media and body image awareness

Social media doesn’t help either.

When I grew up social media wasn’t around (thank goodness!). It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that social media even started, and then it was only Facebook. And Facebook was only for college students with a .edu email address! But now social media plays a huge part, if not the largest part, in children’s body image awareness.

Plastered all over social media are images of girls and their ideal body types. There are people praising them for how amazing they look even though we all know that the images are usually photoshopped and almost always have some sort of filter or other editing done to them. But kids don’t always know that, and even if they do, they aren’t thinking about it as they scroll down.

And then on the other hand you have keyboard warriors saying hateful and cruel things over social media. And those comments hurt.

According to a study in the Sage Journals, researchers found that “An extensive body of research has documented detrimental effects on women’s body image from exposure to idealized images displayed in traditional media formats such as fashion magazines and television, especially for women with already high levels of body concern.” Obviously, traditional media formats have now trickled down to social media which is highly accessible to children and teens of all ages.

Our kids can’t win.

Or maybe they can.

We can help them.

It is important that we as parents instill positive body image awareness for our children, and for girls, this starts at a young age. It is hard to limit the type of language we use, especially with girls, because it often is language that was used towards us or has been used in society for hundreds of years. Things like the following examples, although all well-meaning, can play a part on creating the idea that it is the way a person, namely a female, looks that is most important:

“You’re so pretty.”

“You look beautiful.”

“Look how tiny you are!”

“Pretty smile!”

Tips on ways to project positive body awareness

Exemplifying positive body image awareness can be difficult for mothers. It is ingrained in our minds, especially those of us that grew up in the 1990s and later, that our bodies are constantly being compared to others. And this comparison or “Instagram versus reality” as it is known nowadays, can be extremely detrimental to not only us as parents but also to our children.

Our children are always watching and listening (even though it sure seems like they never do), so it is important not only to talk to them in positive ways about their bodies but also be sure to talk about ourselves in positive ways. We also must work on modeling healthy habits and focus those healthy habits on keeping ourselves healthy and strong versus doing it to “look good.”

Try to emulate positive body awareness by:

  • Not putting yourself down if the scale fluctuates a little bit
  • If you do want or need to lose weight, focus on talking about it in terms of your health versus the way you look
  • Eat healthy foods and talk about how food is fuel and not a punishment
  • Allow yourself to have treats sometimes. If you do deny a treat, make sure to focus the reason on making a healthy choice versus not being “allowed” to eat it
  • Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and good about yourself
  • Try not to focus on society's standards of beauty. Even if you aren’t the “ideal” body type, flaunt that bikini proudly with your kids in tow. They will see your confidence and emulate it as they grow older.
  • Focus on other aspects of your child besides their looks. Talk about their personality, their intelligence, their emotional intelligence, their kindness, and their empathy as their positive traits rather than their looks.
  • Limit social media use- One of the biggest takeaways from this generation is that social media use starts at a very young age. The easiest way to limit your child’s comparison of their body against their peers is to limit the use of social media until they have a firm grasp on positive body image awareness.
  • Kids are cruel, and the best thing you can do for your child is arm them with mantras, sayings, or positive thoughts when kids inevitably say something mean to them. If your child does have a negative experience with another child in regards to their bodies, remind them of all the positive things about themselves and all the amazing things their bodies can do.

Let your kids know that it's ok not to feel their best all the time- Sometimes we are down on ourselves and that’s ok! No one is 100% confident of their body all the time- even supermodels. As long as your child knows in their heart of hearts that their body is amazing for all that it can do, then they can more easily brush off those bad feelings.

Body positivity is a hard thing to teach, especially for those of us that grew up comparing ourselves to celebrities. But teaching our children to love themselves is one of the best things we can do for them.

One way to do this could be in supporting companies that promote positive body image.

One such swimwear brand, crescent bleu™, celebrates women, diverse bodies, and centers eco and social responsibility. Reaching $36M global market share by year's end, US swimwear revenues continue to rise as consumers return to recreation trends. Their eco-luxe swimwear features innovative recycled nylon from marine and other post-consumer wastes in double-ply premium Italian blend for functionality and supreme comfort.

They offer body-diverse sizes sold as separates that mix or match for perfectly customized fit and style with best-sellers like the Laila Top, Kari Strappy Brief, & Flo Monokini.

We also love that their pieces are designed in Brooklyn and ethically sourced and manufactured in Bali. This means wearers can look and feel good. From production to their Eco-Alliance commitment with biodegradable packaging, crescent bleu™ is good for people and the planet.

Just as it should be!