No Room for Average – Images and Our Children

PinterestI have been pinning a few things on Pinterest lately, and have been gratified at the courtesy and kindness shown by most of the pinners out there.  Of course, that may be because I am drawn to the positive images, etc., so I won’t discount that my experience may have been colored by my preferences.

I have noticed as I have surfed this buffet of images, that there is a distinct lack of average looking people. You know, the people next door, at the grocery store, or even those you pass on the street.

People seem to pin images of beautiful people or unusual people, but they rarely pin images of average looking people. I began to wonder if that was the case everywhere, so I went to Google and did a search for “normal looking people” and “average looking people.”

Guess what I got?

Yep, a plethora of movie stars, models and photo shopped oddities. There was one Dove soap campaign, featuring average looking women in their underwear (quite charming) that showed up multiple times, but other than that, the pickings were extremely slim…and so were the people in the images.

Wiser people than I have commented on the increasing disconnect in our society between what we see in our media and what we see around us and in the mirror. Body image issues have skyrocketed in our young people and older people are right behind them, spending millions each year to erase the perceived “ravages of time.”

What can we, as parents and as fellow human beings of the world, do to change this?

I know from personal experience, that it is very difficult to battle the damage that perfect and pervasive media images do to our children. Everyone is hard-wired to be attracted to beauty and symmetry. That is just a fact. But what if you, or your children, are part of the majority who are a bit asymmetrical…a bit imperfect in one, or many ways? What can you do to increase your children’s feeling of self-worth and their appreciation of other people, regardless of appearance?

There are experts out there who will give you many ideas, but these are a few actions we took that seemed to help:

  • Help your child to find his or her power. It may be intellectual, physical, artistic, or simply humane in nature. Help him or her to recognize it and then to explore it through activity.
  • Encourage your child to be active and to eat in a healthy way. Nothing over the top or fad related, mind you, just to be aware of what they are eating and teach them to choose healthier, less processed options when they can. Almost anyone will feel more powerful and attractive when they have activity in their life that keeps them as fit and strong as they can be. Model this with your children and join them when you can and it is appropriate.
  • Point out those people around you who may not be particularly symmetrical, but whose intelligence, humor or kindness shine out from them like a beacon. Express your admiration for them to your children and help them to see past the outer shell and into the inner person.
  • Appreciate out loud to your children, the beauty in the strangers you see around you. He has beautiful eyes, doesn’t he? She has such a kind look on her face. Look at that woman’s beautiful hair! That man has the nicest smile… It doesn’t take much, but you are opening a window for your child to see the loveliness that exists in almost every person.
  • Compliment others when you can, sincerely and without reservation. You may make their day and you will certainly make an impact on your children.

When your children ask you about the “cracks in your face,” (and trust me, at some point they or your grandchildren will!) consider pointing the lines out as the “tracks that a million smiles, laughs and giggles have left.” They can be, you know! I spoke recently with a friend who volunteers regularly at a nursing home, and she said, “You can tell just by looking at them whether they have found the joy in life or the pain. It is all written on their faces.”

Will you win this battle of perception?

Probably not completely. Our innate attraction to beautiful symmetry is a hard thing to overcome. But you can make conscious choices for yourself and your children, and model acceptance and appreciation of the asymmetrical for them.  It can’t hurt.

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