In this video Lauren Muriello, LPC of Well Being Therapy Center discusses why it can be so difficult for teenagers to feel o.k. about their physical appearance. She points out the illusions society continually feeds us regarding what people should look like, and reminds us how important it is for parents to help their children understand what’s real and what’s not real.

Look in your own life. Who are the real people in your life? … Your parents, your grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, teachers, friends. This is what real people look like.


Teenagers, will always be comparing themselves to others to see how they measure up, but by getting them to think differently about who they are comparing themselves to, maybe we have a chance to help have a more realistic assessment about what people look like, and ultimately help them feel a little better about their own physical being” – Lauren Muriello

Realistic self assessment in adolescents

I love her advice to tell our kids that if they have to compare themselves to anyone, they should choose real people in their lives rather than compare themselves to people they see in the movies or advertisements.

Lauren also stresses the importance for parents to try to deemphasize physical appearance and reemphasize our children’s talents and who they are on the inside. Help them spend more time doing things they enjoy, rather than staring in the mirror picking themselves apart.

I don’t know why it is so hard for anyone, particularly teenage girls, to feel o.k. about their appearance, but we know that advertising companies are not going to help, and Lauren has some practical advice to help parents help their teenagers to give themselves a break when judging their  appearance.

The impact on girls

Today teenage girls are being taught that they can be anything they want. Studies show that today girls feel more empowered to be anything they want more than ever before and they are seizing opportunities closed to previous generations .

They believe they have equal opportunities at school to be leaders, top students, get the jobs they want, etc. but, (and this is a very big but), somehow they are still getting the message that what they look like matters more than anything else they might do. This message is not unique to the U.S.

In an article written by Claire Cain Miller and published in the N.Y. Times on 9/14/18, Miller sites a new nationally representative poll of 1,000 children and adolescents age girls 14 to 19, that showed that while girls feel equal to boys in just about every way, it’s not true when it comes to their bodies.

Three-quarters of those polled felt judged as a sexual object and unsafe as a girl. By far, they felt that society considered physical attractiveness to be the most important physical trait for a girl. It should be noted that surveys have found that not just teenage girls, but adult women also feel the same way.

Deborah Tolman, a psychology professor at the City University of New York who researches adolescent sexuality, said …

This is the contradiction we put in front of girls: You should be confident, and do well in school and do athletics, but your supposed to also be a good sex object at the same time. -Deborah TolmanClick To Tweet

What about boys?

I don’t think boys get a free ride when it comes to their bodies and physical appearance. Teenage boys feel pressure to have the “perfect body,” which is to be both lean and have large muscles.

The number of teen males dissatisfied with their bodies has tripled in the past 25 years and men now account for 1 in 4 eating disorders , 95% of which begin in adolescence.

So, I think everything that Lauren recommends parents do to help their teenage children goes for boys as well as girls.

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