I was two when I said I didn’t look pretty and meant it. I was three when I learned what a diet was and how to do it. I was five when I was called the word fat and it devastated me. I was nine when I noticed what the scale said and what those numbers really meant. I was ten when I was called skinny and it encouraged me that starving myself was okay. I was twelve when a boy commented on my physical appearance and it stayed with me. I was fifteen when I missed a state mandated fitness test because I was terrified to see the numbers on the scale and what the teacher would say. I was too young to learn and be impacted by those words, and yet it happened.
And the truth is it is happening to young girls and boys no matter how young they are and whether we want to admit it or not. We think they are too young to fully understand the impact of our words, too young to have these struggles, too young- they aren’t.
So today I want to take a moment to talk to those young girls and boys, the moms of young people, the teachers to these kids, and anyone who interacts with these growing children on a daily basis. Take notice of the youth, because they see the world in a manner that you can’t. They see the beauty and they see the pain. They are confused and trying to become the best individuals they can, so stop putting pressure on them to be the best. Encourage them, love them.
Today across the world, there are young girls and boys skipping lunch, running to the bathroom, literally running for miles, pouring over magazines, crying in the mirror, trying to fit into a certain perfect size jeans, writing in their diary because some boy told them they weren’t pretty. And it matters…they are not just simple words. Your words, their words, they matter and they hold more weight than you could ever realize. We have to start changing this and it starts with changing the conversation.
Stop telling them they are beautiful solely for their physical appearance. Tell them they are beautiful inside and out. Tell them they are important, their opinions matter, they are going to change the world. Their physical beauty is fleeting and could change in an instant, but their beautiful hearts are forever. Tell them they are loved for the unique individual they are. Tell them there is no one like them in the world, because it is true.
Moms, Dads, teachers, friends, family, mentors, young people, you have a chance to change the conversation and it starts today.
I hope today that you feel loved and tell others how loved they are for who they are on the inside, and not just on the outside because that is what matters. From a young lady who has fought harder than anyone should ever have to, to believe that deep down I matter- I promise changing the conversation is worth it.
Martha Kate is an eating disorder survivor & advocate. She spends most of her time in Waco, Texas where she lives with her husband Brett and works with college students for the ministry RUF. MK loves people, diet coke, anything that sparkles, and a monogram on everything. Read her blog at leavingperfectionlearninggrace.com