Social media has been a part of our lives for over a decade now and its looking like it’s here to stay.
There are many positive experiences to be gained from social media and it can achieve a lot of good in the world. However, when it comes to value, self-worth, healthy eating and body acceptance, I believe much of what is on social media is causing harm. Particularly to our young people.
Establishing my own self-worth was hard enough, with much of the comparison occurring from magazines and TV, before social media was even a thing. I can’t help but worry what’s happening to the brain of our kids who see these unrealistic images constantly, all day, every day.
With a daughter heading to high school next year and entering the online world, I want her to be prepared. So I wrote her a letter. You can watch it or read it below.
I’m not sure how it happened so quickly but you’re going to high school next year.
I know that everything you’re feeling right now feels huge. That’s because it is. It feels huge to me too. You’re becoming a woman.
What I’m struggling with the most is the fact that I can’t shelter you from the world anymore. And every day you get older, the closer I get to having to let you go.
Don’t worry, it’s not letting you go in the sense that we won’t be together. I’ll always be here for you, no matter what. It’s in the sense that the whole world, not just me, has a chance at getting a piece of you. A chance to make an impact on your life.
And I’m scared. Not that you won’t have a good life. I’m scared of the world I’m letting you go into. This world is not always kind.
Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful places and times in our lives, but the older I get the more I see the brokenness. The damage. The confusion. The stress. The mistakes. The consequences. The regret. The disappointment. The betrayal. The guilt.
As I write this, I‘m looking at you sitting on the lounge. You look happy. Beautiful. Not just physically beautiful. It’s something that goes beyond how you look. It’s like I can see the potential inside you. A glimpse of the woman you will become. I fill with pride. How did you come from me?
You’re a miracle! A gift.
You’re sitting with your knees up and your body slouched. A position you’d be scolded for because it was un-lady like. And then I think about that – about being ladylike and ponder about what that actually means.
What does it mean to be a lady? To be a woman?
Unfortunately, if you looked at our mainstream culture you will see one image of what it means to be a lady and the pressure you’ll feel to be like her has the potential to consume you. And if you don’t look away, and find another meaning, consume you it will.
With a carefully staged photo to look candid, this lady will appear real. And you’ll be frustrated that after 100 selfies, not one will feel ‘good enough’ for you to post. But you are good enough, she probably took 100 photos too.
Her skin will glow with fake tan and her tussled curls will cascade down her back. And you’ll feel inadequate at your lack of tan, and the fact that your hair, no matter how much hair spray you use refuses to hold a decent curl. But you are adequate, because beauty is more than tan and curls.
She’ll show both muscle tone and the right amount of curves and her smile will boast white teeth and full lips. You’ll scrutinize every inch of your body, only noticing the flaws, always feeling second rate. To make your body better you’ll be tempted to take her advice. To eat ‘healthier’ and exercise harder. A slippery slope for a young mind and an open heart, simply wanting to be valued.
And as you know, I know all about the importance of being a healthy eater. It’s my job. Except that the kind of healthy you’ll see promoted by our culture is not the kind of healthy I want you to learn. And I’m working hard, you know that I am, to change this conversation, into one where I’d be happy for you to join in. Unfortunately, diet culture has got worse, not better and I want you to be careful. There is much more to life than what you eat. There are many different sizes where a body can be healthy.
Not only will she always look beautiful, this lady, but she’s accomplished too. She’ll have a great business or a big following, 3 university degrees and big shot job. With all the brands and possessions arranged in the background, she’ll smile and talk about how humble and grateful she is for her life. And you’ll feel a pang of guilt as you just whined about being unhappy with yours. But the problem is not your life, the problem is that you’re comparing it with hers.
Comparison is the thief of joy. Do you know what happens when you compare yourself? Someone has to lose. And I know it, along with many other women out there, the pain of always being the loser.
Because I got stuck in the comparison game. And it stole years of my happiness, all because I felt like my worth was based on my body and my value on my accomplishments. I never felt good enough. No matter how hard I tried.
I thought a good woman was a pretty woman, one who everyone liked, one who was only valuable if she did something great with her life. I used to tell myself, way too often. “you need to try harder, be more, do better.” I was a slave driver and that slave was me.
So, if you let our culture show you what kind of woman you are, you’ll never end up feeling like a good enough one.
And so, my darling girl, I hope that my life, although far from perfect and full of mess, examples to you what a true woman is. Because although scarred by the poor mindsets of my past, every day I find more joy in learning who I truly am.
I want you to know that your life is far more than how you look.
That you are not a good or bad person based on what you eat.
That your value goes far beyond what you achieve.
That you’ll feel the most alive when you find your purpose. Never stop looking for it.
That the size of your body is not a measure of your character.
That listening to that still small voice inside you will often lead you to love others.
That being kind doesn’t make you weak, it, in fact, makes you brave.
I want you to climb mountains, jump off jetties, kick footballs, dance to your favourite songs, support your friends, try new things, embrace learning through failure and more than anything, thrive!
Don’t let this world tell you that you need to be anything more than what you are. For you are fearfully and wonderfully made and I wouldn’t change a thing about you.
So, fly my darling, fly into high school and beyond, I’ll be right here, cheering you on!
Love your mum.
The Daily Dollop exists because I’m passionate about setting people free from food stress and teaching them how to eat well for the rest of their life.
One of the challenges that I’m up against is the pull and allure of social media, the comparison it breeds and the misinformation it spreads. And it’s not just the information about food that bothers me. It’s the information about identity and worth and value. Social feeds of half-dressed women are teaching our daughters and sons what it means to be a valuable human being and it’s hurting them.
Social media is a part of our lives and there is so much positive stuff to gain from our interaction with it. However, it’s also dangerous and the emotional, social and mental health of our kids are at stake.
So, don’t leave your daughter alone while she navigates it. Don’t just leave your son to himself as he delves into the online world. They need us. More than ever. Be part of their lives.
My efforts won’t go into fighting social media. My efforts will go into helping my daughter have a good relationship with it and consequently a good relationship with herself and others. And if we all do that, we’re just one generation away from a better world.
This content was originally published here.