We recently read an article in the New York Times on the negative talk women (and girls) sometimes engage in when discussing their appearance, weight and bodies. The piece touched on some of the very complicated dynamics around how we talk about body image with peers and with ourselves.
Some researchers have found that fat talk is so embedded among women that it often reflects not how the speaker actually feels about her body but how she is expected to feel about it.
The idea that we would actually expect a girl to feel badly about her body may sound counterintuitive, but there are powerful social motivators for girls to downplay body confidence and confidence in general. Here at GirlTalk Therapy, our mission is to engage girls in a dialogue about the assumptions they make about themselves and others, how social rules can be broken for the better, and how confidence and self-compassion in women and girls is something to celebrate.
“we have complicated reactions to confident women in general, and particularly to women who are confident about their bodies. Women sometimes see them as arrogant.”
In order to break the cycle of negative body talk, it's critical to change the idea that shared commiserating is a primary bonding tool. The idea that girls need to put themselves down because their friends do it is a powerful social rule that can be tough to interrupt. The authors found one way to change the conversation:
“We always get good clothes from that store, but their new pants just don’t ‘get’ us!”
It wasn’t that their bodies didn’t fit the clothes; the clothes didn’t fit their bodies.
Ever since, said Ms. Bates, when the friends try on clothes that don’t fit, their go-to remark has become, “This doesn’t get me!” And, taking a cue from the positive-image primer, they leave it at that.