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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: My Daughter Is Ashamed of Her Body

Dear Stavroula

My daughter is 14 years old and she is truly a charismatic creature. She is an excellent student and she manages to do anything. From an early age, she played the piano and painted. She has many interests and has always been a smiling and happy girl. Lately, however, she has stopped looking happy, she is constantly complaining about her body and the extra pounds she has, she compares herself to girls who have a different body type from her. She wears only dark clothes and she is impatient every time I suggest that she wear something different. I think she is ashamed of herself, she never uploads photos of herself on social media and although in many ways she is very mature for her age, the image she has of her body does not correspond to reality. I suggested she talk to a psychologist but she does not want to. How can I help her without pushing her?

Eugenia

Dear Eugenia,

Adolescence is a very difficult and important phase of life for all young people, as on the one hand they have to deal with hormonal changes in their body, while on the other hand they try to create their identity, often rejecting the examples they have seen in their family.

At this time, they are looking for new role models and unfortunately they find them easily through social media. Through Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, social comparison and the feeling of personal inadequacy are enhanced. Young people find it difficult to grasp the virtual reality, the filtered life projected on them, and unfortunately often form the image of themselves based on ‘likes and hearts.’ No matter how mature a child is in adolescence, it is difficult to resist social media and even more difficult to realize that the image projected in these media is distorted and unrealistic, that others do not live better or happier lives because they have many views or because they get a lot of likes.

You can help your daughter develop a healthy body image by first letting her know that you understand her. Try not to cancel her feeling with statements like "Is it necessary for you to feel that way?" or "You understand very well that you are not…." Apply active listening, let her express herself, be open with you, without judging or advising her, without making the discussion about you by saying “I felt that way, too, at your age.”

Show her that you are listening to her by encouraging her to continue the conversation. Try to help her think and find out how all this negative attitude started – is it too much time on social media, is she facing comments from friends?

And then help her understand how we usually operate through these media, why we post photos and what we want to present. Or what can make a ‘girlfriend’ make a vicious comment about another's body, about how insecure and unhappy she might be.

Tell her about the huge financial interests behind the ‘image; industries and what really makes people happy. Help her recall her abilities and talents and realize that we are all much more than our pounds or wrinkles.

If you find that her negative thoughts persist, she should probably talk to a mental health professional. It would also be good to talk to a nutritionist who will help her understand what is the right weight for her body and to eat properly without going to extremes.

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