Picture the scene. You’re stood in a cupcake shop surrounded by an array of delicious and beautiful array of treats. Slabs of chocolate cake big enough to wedge a door open are being cut whilst pastel coloured frostings adorn the top of every little cupcake behind the counter you’re trying hard not to drool over. In front of you, ready to be served are two young girls, probably around seven and four years old with someone you assume to be their mum. The youngest, staring wide eyed, nose pressed against the counter, asks the older girl which one she’s going to choose.

And would you like to hear the response of the child who can be no older than seven?

I can’t have one. They’ve got too much calrees.

These two girls are literally kids in a candy store. They can choose a cake. This is surely child heaven? Hell, this is MY heaven. But a seven year old, who can’t even pronounce the word and has no real concept of its meaning, is denying themselves a treat because of calories? Sorry to be blunt but does anyone share my rage when I say FUCK. THAT.

Child With Cake

The whole idea behind this little girl coming out with that phrase terrifies and saddens me.

The beautiful thing about young children is that when it comes to learning, they are the most fantastic little sponges and can soak up everything life throws at them to help create the way they view life. However, it is the adults in their lives who have a huge impact on what kind of views are created.

In terms of body image, and I will use young girls as an example purely to draw from my own experiences, a large part of the way they learn to view themselves and their bodies comes from the older women in their lives. Be it mothers, older sisters, aunts etc, to the young girls in their lives, they are beautiful. They are the women they love and learn from the most and are the ones who will shape the way they view the world and themselves.

I imagine most of you can remember a time when you were young when you saw one of the women you loved looking absolutely beautiful in your eyes. This perfect person you thought embodied what it was to be a grown up, and, like all children, when you’re little you love nothing more to pretend to be a grown up. We want to try on their shoes, watch them get ready. But what if this beautiful woman you look up to then starts criticising themselves in the mirror or when given a compliment? What if words like “fat”, “diet”, “calories” and the like start littering the air?

Chocolate Cupcakes

Suddenly you realise this adored woman who you thought was beautiful doesn’t see themselves that way. So then you start to think that pointing out your flaws rather than celebrating the good is actually normal. And then, with enough talk of being too fat or too skinny or too anything, of being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when it comes to food, of generally not being good enough, the lesson learnt by so many young girls is that to be a grown woman means to be at war with your own body.

This thought pattern is embedded in a huge number of us and the sad part is that it is nearly always done completely unconsciously by the women who raise us. My mum, my favourite person in the world, brought me up telling me I was beautiful and, importantly, I grew up with a good sense of nutrition and the idea of a balanced diet. However (sorry mum), the woman can’t take a compliment. Tell her she’s beautiful and it gets batted away with some comment about something wrong with her because this pattern is embedded within her too.

Generations of girls have grown up with these conflicting messages and quite frankly; this shitty pattern has got to stop and it is up to us now to make it happen.

When we are around children, we actively try not to use bad language in case the little sponges soak it up and repeat it. If they then repeat that language we tell them to stop. It is our responsibility to consciously deal with negative body image in the same way, no excuses.

Child With Crayons

I recently turned 29. I’m at an age where within the next few years, friends and family will start having children of their own, making their kids the first generation I feel I may personally have some kind of influence and impact on. Hell, I may even hopefully have my own children one day. Like everyone, I have my own hang ups regarding the way I view myself but I am so done with hearing kids talking about being fat or ugly or too this or too that that I have made a promise with myself to not let that critical voice in my head speak up around young impressionable ears.

So, to the wonderful future little people I have yet to meet in my life, to the girl in the cupcake shop, to all of you: You are absolutely beautiful and can do anything you want to do. Your body is the most incredible gift you will ever receive so treat it kindly, give it a cupcake every now and then, take it dancing, thrill in all the miraculous things it can do, tell it how amazing it is and fall in love with it however you can.

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