Beauty Fads Put Teen Girls at Risk

by Lucie Hemmen on April 7, 2013

“Tumblr is the worst” states my teen client, with a facial expression of dread mixed with horror.  “There is just the sickest stuff on that site that girls post and re-post.   ‘Thinspiration’ garbage that makes you feel like you’re a pathetic loser if your thighs touch.  It’s sick sh#@ but it gets in your head and affects you, ya know?”

Yes, I do know.  I know because I see bright, creative, wonderful teen girls affected, even traumatized, by what they see and read on sites such as Tumblr every week in my practice.

The latest insane beauty fad poisoning its way through teen America?  ‘Thigh gap.’  As you can imagine (while cringing), the thigh gap fad refers to a current obsession to have thighs with a gap in between them; in other words, thighs that don’t touch.  Ugh!

Another teen shares, “I don’t go on Tumblr anymore.  That stuff is poison.  But I do shop on-line like most of my friends and even though we don’t buy stuff too often, we like to see what our favorite stores are selling.  All the models are really pretty and the clothes definitely highlight their super skinny thighs and thigh gap.  Then I look at my body and think, that’s just never going to happen.”

And she’s right.   Most women are not built to not have their thighs touch and aspiring to the media promoted trend will only bring them, at best, profound frustration and unhappiness and at worst, an eating disorder.

This teen knows that if she stopped shopping on-line catalogs, it would take about a hot second for her to encounter, from some other source yet another warped “ideal” image of “beauty” she feels she should be or at the very least, strive for.

When I was a teen, there were plenty of images of idealized femininity.  But let’s face it:  a weekly episode of the “racy” Charlie’s Angels was nothing compared to what our teen daughters are exposed to.

Teen girls today live in a 24-hour, media driven culture that never takes a break. If they aren’t connected to media through their phones or laptops (surfing the net, reality television, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), and of course we know they ARE, they will encounter an over-the-top, super- sexualized image of a woman at a bus stop, the coffee shop, in a magazine or catalog, or within their first 5 seconds of setting foot inside a shopping mall.

These images take a toll.  When the same nail gets pounded again and again (Your Sexiness = Your Value), young girls who want to feel good enough by our cultural standard get the message.

The fads may change (flat stomachs, big booties, lower back dimples, and now thigh gap), but the underlying message is the same.  You’re not okay the way you are AND the way you look is crucial to your acceptance and success.

For more on this topic including how we can push back, check out these links:

Five Easy Ways to Stop Thigh Gap Obsession – San Jose Mercury News

Thigh Gap: What’s Behind a Dangerous Teen Body Image Obsession



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