Is the age for body image issues lowering?

Scrolling through your social media everyday is not an easy task. Often your feed is bombarded with seemingly “perfect” selfies, or a poolside photo with the whole group attending. The biggest problem is that a “perfect” body does not exist, at least not in the way it is defined in the media. Photos are often edited to make models thinner or to enhance their features. Chasing the “perfect” body will only end in disappointment, and this can lead to poor self-esteem and can impact all aspects of life. This kind of feed tends to generate questions among the topic of being good enough. “Am I pretty enough?” or “Am I thin enough?” tend to be the most frequently thought of questions. These are things I ask myself almost daily. While it is “normal” for a teenager like myself to be conscious of my appearance, I have a growing concern that it is not a “teenager thing” anymore. I am beginning to notice that more and more young children, primarily little girls, are questioning their appearances at younger ages than myself and my peers began to as well.

Body image can be defined as one’s perception of his or her body, and it can be either positive or negative. Sometimes they can change over time. At a young age, I didn’t have social media as a base construction on how my body should look and be perceived by others. Instead, I had no concerns about what I was putting into my body. I didn’t think about the calorie content, how my body looked in a photo, and even how it looked compared to others. Looking back on this, I have definitely changed. I have begun to care much more about the calories, counting them often, and overall if it would cause me to gain weight. While this does not take over my life in any threatening way, it is on my mind often.

Reflecting on my own food and body image history, I have begun to compare it to other young children that I talk to or overhear. As children grow up, they are beginning to learn who and what they want to be. When people, especially children, focus constantly on their body dissatisfaction, this causes the person to develop a distorted version of themselves. Having a negative body image can lead to lower confidence and self-esteem can damage them severely in the long run. I have overheard a group of young girls at the pool talking about a slight amount of pudge that was naturally hanging over due to the way they were sitting. The next thing I overheard was a discussion about diets and diet pills. I was taken aback because I didn’t know what those things were at their age. Talking about those topics at their age is inappropriate and shouldn’t be considered at their age. 

Preventing this kind of behavior is extremely important to the mental health of these young children. Images on TV, images in story books, and the general chat amount adults about their bodies, dieting, and surgery needs to be censored and restricted around young children. We are children’s role models, and it is our job to nurture their self esteem by eliminating any poor talk about ourselves and censoring any unrealistic standards thrown their way.