There's no denying that we live in a beauty-obsessed world and it's having devastating effects, especially on the younger generations.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 20 million women and 10 million men in the US will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their lives. Studies have also shown that by age six, girls especially start to express concerns about their weight or shape, with 50% of girls ages 6-12 afraid of becoming too fat.
Each of us can be a body positive role model by becoming more conscious of what we say and do. If you want to improve your self-confidence and inspire others to do the same, here are five ways to lead by example.
1. Talk positively about your body and avoid self-criticism.
Think about the way you talk about yourself. Avoid expressing self-criticism aloud, especially in the company of others — think about what that criticism might sound like to anyone other than yourself. It might be challenging at first, but practice speaking positively about your body.
When you verbally criticize yourself, your body or your appearance, you'll be teaching those around you that it's OK to do the same when in reality, it's not. An added bonus to all the good you'll be doing by speaking positively is that you can change the way you think about and see yourself.
2. Express your feelings accurately.
When you're feeling emotional, choose your language carefully to express how you feel. For example, cultivate the emotional awareness to say, "I feel tired," rather than "I feel fat." Or "I'm stressed," instead of "I'm such an idiot." By effectively expressing what you feel, you set an example of emotional maturity and expression without the need for critical dramatization.
3. Give compliments on attributes other than beauty.
Compliments are nice to receive, but we tend to give them based on physical appearance. By acknowledging someone's intelligence, courage, creativity or strength instead of her outfit, hair or makeup, we can have an extremely positive impact on someone's self-esteem. When we shift the weight of importance off looks and onto things that aren't tangible, we send the message that there are aspects of every person that are more highly valued than just looks.
4. Avoid hateful language about others.
The way you judge and talk about other people will impact how people around you see themselves in relation to you. Using hateful language about how someone looks or what they're wearing sends a message to those around you that they too will be judged by those same standards in your eyes, whether it's true or not.
5. Establish other positive role models.
It's no secret that images of women and men in media are often manipulated and abnormal, so it's important to resist the temptation to put these individuals on a pedestal and compare yourself — or anyone els — to these unrealistic standards. Instead, find empowering role models who are doing great things in the world. Whether they're national figures or community members, don't be shy to openly discuss and celebrate them for qfualities like intellect, courage and contribution to society.