Body-Talk, Part 3: Straight Talk for Body-Wise Girls

The past few articles have been about Body-Talk–the ways our bodies communicate with us and the ways we talk about our bodies. These conversations with our physical selves can shape how we and our girls think and feel in mind, body and spirit. Accurately listening to our bodies’ messages can help us determine our needs and wants. Our wise bodies don’t speak in a language of judgment or appearance, but merely help us to understand and appreciate being alive. In contrast to the negative messages of the popular media, body conversations of gratitude and compassion are important elements to our self-concepts and self-esteem.
How can we help girls (and ourselves) protect the wisdom of the body and the integrity of our self-concepts? In a world with abundant messages that promote negative body-image, how can we instead encourage a culture of positive Body-Talk? It’s important! Scientific studies demonstrate that most girls tend to relate to each other and make connections through talking. Research on girls’ development suggests that their identities are formed through important social interactions with peers, adults, and the media. Therefore, how girls talk to each other, how we talk to girls, and how girls respond all have an important impact on identity formation.

One of the tools we teach girls to use in their important relationships is Straight Talk, or Brave Talk, also known as assertiveness. Straight Talk enables girls to teach other how they want to be treated using verbal and non-verbal language that is firm, respectful and growth-fostering. Talking straight enables girls to be strong without putting others down and to disagree with respect.

We can teach girls to use Straight Talk as a form of positive Body-Talk that educates others (and themselves) about how to respect their bodies. Straight Talk can be used with peers, adults, and even advertisements. Consider the following situations:
• You’re checking out at the grocery store when you see this magazine headline: Out-of-Shape Celebrities! The cover is full of close-ups of various body parts or whole bodies with the faces blacked out.
• You overhear your daughter and her friends talking about how they need to lose weight and what diets they are thinking about trying.
• You overhear a co-worker “dissing” a part of her body that she wishes was different and you feel tempted to join in with your own physical insecurities.
Here’s a sobering thought: This kind of talk in magazines, on television, with our friends, and in our own minds can be damaging and hurtful. Let’s stop hurting ourselves! In each one of these scenarios, we can communicate to others (and ourselves) about how negative body-talk affects us, and that we don’t want to participate in it! We can educate others, including popular media, about how we would like our bodies to be treated. We can disagree with respect, and refuse to participate in negative Body-Talk.

There are lots of ways we can talk straight about our bodies, through our words and our actions. Consider these ideas:
BE MEDIA SAVVY. Remember that many advertisements want us to feel dissatisfied with our selves so we’ll buy their products. We can buy their products, but we don’t have to buy their message!
STRENGTHEN YOUR CULTURAL CRITIC. We don’t have to participate in body criticism, but instead can critique the culture we live in, including those magazines at the check-out stand!
WALK AWAY or CHANGE THE SUBJECT in conversations that involve negative body-talk or media messages.
DO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY IN YOUR BODY–and talk about it! Make art or crafts with your hands, listen and dance to music, go for a nature walk, play with your dog (and notice how she loves being in her body), take turns giving each other shoulder massages, relax your muscles with deep breaths, smell some fresh flowers–so many things to enjoy in our good bodies!

Please note: Nothing in what you find here should be construed as medical advice pertinent to any individual. As is true with all written materials, and especially information found on the internet, you must be the judge of what appears valid and useful for yourself. Please take up any questions you might have regarding the content of this website with your psychotherapist or physician.

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