Body image issues and self esteem, do you know what’s important? For the most part, we do not grow up already knowing how to respond to people with a different body than our own. True, there are some children who are more sensitive than others when it comes to body image issues and self esteem, and these may never say anything to offend someone regarding their body differences. That said, the majority of children speak without considering the way it might make someone feel, which is perfectly normal for that developmental stage, and they have to be taught to be respectful and tolerant, even toward plus size people.
Tolerance, from a body image issues and self esteem, is all about learning what is acceptable—and is not—to comment on in a person’s life. While it may be okay under some circumstances to ask someone how he or she lost a leg, especially if you know they are comfortable with speaking about it, it is rarely acceptable to comment on someone’s weight, unless it is to tell them that they look handsome or beautiful. Society teaches us that if we are plus sized, we are an oddball, someone different, and obviously something is wrong with us if we cannot manage our weight.
Start by teaching your children, regardless of their size or yours, about the different ways that people gain weight. For some, it’s a matter of medical problems causing them to gain weight, either through medication or lack of exercise. They may hate the way that the weight makes them feel, but they cannot quit taking the medicines. Certain arthritis medicines, sleep aids, birth control pills, stop smoking aids, migraine medications, and many others have warnings that they can cause weight gain.
There is nothing ugly about being plus size per se, when you look at things from a more personal perspective. Sure, none of us like the look or feel of the weight, but it doesn’t really change who we are inside. Teach your children to get to know the person within, not the weight outside. Once they learn this lesson, the rest will be much easier to deal with when it comes down to body image issues.
For a child, learning to tolerate someone who is not the same as they are can be a challenge. They want to know why that person is different, and what they did to become different, and are not always tactful about it. How many parents have suffered the embarrassment of a “You sure are fat” comment? A great number have, mostly because they have not really taken the time to teach tolerance.
When we think of tolerance, we usually think of sexual orientation, gender equality, religion or religious background, social status, and/or ethnicity. We may even think about disability or handicap on occasion. We rarely think of a plus size person as someone needing tolerance. Think of it this way: if you suddenly put on fifty pounds, would you want everyone to remark on it, or would you rather no one mention it, let you deal with it, and continue loving and supporting you for who you still are?
Our culture is one that preaches tolerance for most of the above mentioned reasons, and this is great, for those who pass the message on to their children at a young age especially about body image and self esteem. Yet body image issues still exist at large. Children are not born with the ability to understand that talking about someone’s weight can hurt their feelings, sometimes so severely that it changes their body image drastically. Whether your child is plus size or not, you have to talk to them about being tolerant and respectful to those who are not the same weight that they are. Do not allow society’s body image issues such as thinner is the only way to be beautiful to be passed down to another generation.