I want to get your thoughts. There was a New York Post article published at the end of October, highlighting parents’ outrage over retouched photos of their children’s school pictures. Services were being offered through the photography company to whiten children’s teeth, even their skin tone, take away blemishes and freckles. In fact, one of the kids whose mom had initially agreed to some touch ups, was shocked to find that her son’s hearing aids had been removed from the picture. She was livid!
At what point do you think these “touch ups” are harmful to a child’s self-image? Does changing or perfecting things about the physical image of your child send a message that there is something wrong with them, or at the very least, something that is in need of repair? Can this type of service make a child who is already feeling less confident, feel even worse? And for a child who has not yet thought about changing his or her physical appearance, can this give them the idea that it is needed or even more scary, that it is the norm?
In a different article there were talks of Chinese parents opting to put shape helmets on their children’s heads so that their skulls become rounder. Apparently, having a perfectly round head is desirable in China and parents feel this will help their child in some way down the road. Parents were quoted in the article saying things such as, “I think wearing a helmet has the same function as wearing braces, which is to correct a body part and make it more beautiful” or “I have a flat head and I know how painful it is for women who are chasing beauty. I don’t want my kid to grow up and regret this part of herself” or “You head shape determines your attractiveness. Give your children a good start and correct their head bones while you can.”
Where do we draw the line? How much is too much focus on our outward appearance? At what point do you think it becomes obsessive and unhealthy? On the other hand, is it ever ok, then, to focus on how we look? How do we find that balance in such an outward appearance fixated world?
I guess the question is, is there as legitimate difference between trying to “perfect” or “tweak” our children’s physical appearance and the overall message that their value and worthiness comes from their clothing size, the shape of their body, or how they look? These articles might be a bit more brazen, but the message is the same; to be good, to succeed in life, to really flourish, you have to look good. And looking good means that you conform to society’s expectations and standards.
I for one, refuse to stand by and let these harmful, toxic, and destructive messages wreak havoc on our girl’s self-image and self-esteem. The time has come to take a stand – through education, prevention, and awareness programs. This is Atzmi’s mission – to support the mental health and well-being of our girls through programs that improve their self-esteem, self-compassion, body acceptance, and reduce the intense focus on outward appearances.
I would love your thoughts on this topic!