Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the
We all know the Snow White - Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who'se the fairest one of all?
Here's some thoughts about a recent story of "The prettiest girl…"
My 4 year old recently came home from preschool and announced that her teachers had proclaimed her the “prettiest girl at circle time”. As her little face beamed, my heart sank a little and I knew I had to handle this carefully. I do suspect that a more typical response would be less triggered and that most people would think nothing of it or that was a lovely compliment. In some ways I wish my response could be more naïve and I could respond with “oh that’s so nice, it must be wonderful to be the prettiest girl”. But I know, all too well, where that kind of identification of worth and view of self can go. And what about the other girls who are not the prettiest that day? How were they feeling at circle time today?
She has wonderful, caring and thoughtful teachers that would never say anything that would knowingly harm any of their little students. This was all came from the most loving of sources, as many of the important messages that we receive do.
I wondered when the bombarding beauty and body image messages, societal pressures, and expectations might start to seep into my little girl’s world. I knew it was inevitable but I had hoped that me might make it past preschool.
As a therapist who has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders for many years, I have had the blessing, and challenge of seeing many clients through their eating disorder journey. Eating disorders takes hold of body and mind and although it is often a great teacher it torments and takes far more. For each person, it is a unique storm that leads to the place where the eating disorder takes hold. The ride there is unique but there are common themes. The expectations, pressures and beliefs about beauty and physical perfection are always there. These forces pervade our daily lives and relationships, feelings about our worth, ourselves, and our bodies. They are everywhere and they are the fertile ground in which eating disorders grow. They then turn into something much darker.
My daughters is rather adorable, she’s also clever, funny, cheeky, bossy, sometimes whiny and always well loved. She has a knack for expressing her feelings and finds joy and glee in everyday. I made one little suggestion to her about her “prettiest” status. “Maybe since all those wonderful things that are so beautiful inside of you were shining extra today you looked very pretty”. She accepted that as an equally grand compliment.
The next day on the way to preschool she proudly ran through a list of people that she loves (because that is just how awesome 4 years olds are). I was delighted to be on that list and even more delighted when she capped off the list with “and I love myself!” My only wish at the moment was to bottle up that feeling for her and to share it with her throughout her life if there every comes a time, and there will, when her belief and love in herself waffles, when she feels that she needs to be prettier, thinner, better. When she looks from the outside rather than from what shines from within.