Some of the strongest memories that I can recall from my childhood are not centered around recess, class activities, or even field trips. The strongest memories that I can recall are centered around how I felt about myself and my body as a child. From a young age, I can remember comparing myself to other girls and their appearances. I remember wanting to be thin just like my closest friends but there was another part of me that was telling me I would never be like them. I would never look like them or be liked by boys like they were. I was different than them. I was me.
These memories from my childhood did not just center around my weight or my height but also around small nit-picky things regarding my appearance that seemed to be world ending to me, such as a gap in my teeth and my bangs. At the time of these memories, all of my “flaws and imperfections” seemed like weaknesses to me. But over the course of my life, from elementary school to now as a junior in college, these weaknesses of mine have become my strengths. My body has taught me many things and I now view my body as a teacher. It has taught me what exactly it needs to make me feel as though I am my best self. My healthiest self. I did not follow in the footsteps of others when attempting this. I paved my own path to viewing myself and my body in a positive light.
After overcoming so much with my own body, it is heartbreaking to know that there are still girls as young as five who are viewing themselves the exact same way I did as a child in the early 2000s. Feeling as though they are unworthy of being satisfied with their body. Uncomfortable in their own skin. Wanting to be something that is not them at all, something that they have only seen on television or on social media. The rules and regulations that are placed upon young girls, and even young boys, by society about what they can wear, how they can look, and what their bodies can do are absurd.
The idea of body dissatisfaction should not exist in our society, especially when it comes to children. Children should not be socialized to hate their bodies because they do not look a certain way. The haunting evidence from an early study done by Marika Tiggemann and Barbara Pennington accurately displays why body dissatisfaction has no place in our society. During the study girls as young as nine, possibly even younger, were asked if they preferred thinner, “ideal” bodies or their bodies current size. Unfailingly, the girls selected the “ideal” bodies over their current bodies. Because of this study’s results, Tiggemann and Pennington suggested that body dissatisfaction is a normal experience for young girls in Western culture (Body Image, p 139). Additionally, children are exposed to media and imagery that center around body topics such as fatness and slimness, which can be very influential when it comes to determining a child’s beliefs concerning their own “ideal” body shape and size (p 139).
Children should be socialized to love their bodies, not to hate them. Children should learn to celebrate their bodies and the many things that their bodies can do, even at a young age. Who cares what you look like when you are five years old? You are supposed to be a child and that is it. You are expected to scrape your knees on the playground and make finger paintings in art class. You are not expected to want to exercise, or begin dieting, or even going home every night and weighing yourself on a scale. Let children be who they are when they are young. Let them find their own place in the world and grow at their own pace. Let them be children.
McKenna Kobosko is currently a junior at Old Dominion University. She is an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Women’s Studies. She has been interested in Women’s Studies from a young age, before she even knew what Women’s Studies was. She is a fan of learning, especially when it comes to learning from what she is reading. She enjoys reading news stories on social media, as well as educational articles that focus around minorities, sexuality and its fluidity, biased dress codes, and much more. She seeks to learn as much as she can while also providing herself with many different perspectives of our society and how we as a society are socialized.