What Childhood Bullying Does To Your Body Image Later In Life

Guest article for Mind, Body, Green.

If you ask most adults if they were bullied as a child and their answer is yes, they can usually tell you their earliest bullying memory in great detail. They can pinpoint the exact day, time, location and who was there.

Why? Because it was a traumatic experience.

For many people, these earliest experiences with bullying typically occur around the 5th grade. Socially, this is the time when boys and girl start to form cliques, become competitive and begin showing interest in the opposite sex. However, this is also the time when many physical changes occur.

Kids get braces, glasses, acne, start developing faster or slower than everyone else in class … anyone can be a prime target for bullying for any reason.

Unfortunately, the effects of bullying can carry over to adulthood. We hold on to labels, to the names we were called. We can play the bullying scenarios over and over in our heads, so much so that we may start believing them again. By adulthood, perfectly proportioned women think they’re too big, too tall, too skinny. This is where body dysmorphia can begin.

Body dysmorphia is a type of chronic mental illness where you can’t stop thinking about a flaw in your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined. Your appearance seems so shameful that you don’t want to be seen by anyone.

Body dysmorphia and memories of teasing and/or bullying can go hand-in-hand. If the bullying experience was traumatic and you were never able to process it and let it go, the effects can linger for years. For example, if you were teased as a child for being “chubby,” those ugly nicknames have a tendency to stick around even though you know you’re not overweight today.

For more from this article, click here.

Girl Talk: Interview with Author Dr. Carol Langlois About her new Book for Teen Girls.

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We’ve loved Dr. Carol Langlois’s advice for Your Teen readers over the years, so we were excited to hear about her new book, Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies & Body Image. We caught up with Dr. Carol to find out more.

Tell us about the approach you took with this book?

In total, I interviewed (and taped) about 160 girls from 10 schools in the Bay Area. After sharing my taped interviews with a few other writers and editors, they suggested that sharing (their stories) from a first person perspective would be very powerful. In the end, I chose 10 stories of ten girls who’s challenges with self-esteem were relatable and transcended culture, race, and socio-economics.

What’s going well for girls these days? 

I would say that their access to and utilization of information is abundant. They can educate themselves on so many topics more easily today. If they want to learn about puberty, smoking, pregnancy, healthy eating, etc.—they can. They know the risks and the pro and cons of most things to make better informed decisions. Many teens today have strong opinions about drugs and alcohol, the environment, or global warming for example because of information from the web. This is incredibly beneficial in helping them make smart choices.

But many are struggling? 

For the book, I interviewed quite a few girls who were dealing with or had survived through some form of an eating disorder, which I think is worth noting. More abundantly were issues of perfection and anxiety—not necessarily unrelated to eating disorders.

Stop the critical self-talk. Instead, model positive self-acceptance around girls.

Teens are stressed out more than ever. I call this  the “duck syndrome.” Think about the duck who looks very serene, calm, and pleasant floating along a lake. Then, if you look under the water she is paddling frantically. That is the duck syndrome. Too many students on the outside appear calm, cool, and collected while on the inside they are completely stressed out. Its a “fake it ’til you make it” mentality. For many, they want to be the great student, the great athlete, and well-liked by peers. But what price do they pay? Proving you can do it all has transformed into an ugly state of unattainable expectations and extremes, which are unhealthy for teens at any age. I’ve seen this further progress into eating disorders for the perfect body and drug addictions to manage the high pace and stress. This is a recipe for disaster.

- See more of this interview here.

Tips and Tricks for Teens on Managing Peer Pressure

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In high school, there can be a decent amount of pressure to attend parties and sometimes drink or do drugs. Yes, you can certainly say no to attending the party and avoid the whole thing; however, in some cases you then become the topic of conversation, not at the party, but on Monday at school. That’s no fun.  Not to mention that you want to hang out with your friends and be social, but don’t want to feel the pressure from others.  Be proactive! I suggest coming up with a shortlist of responses that you can use when faced with peer pressure, so you aren’t ostracized for doing the right thing. Here, I started the list for you with a few and when stated confidently and honestly, will be respected by your peers.  Trust me!

(These are related to the example of drinking at a party, but can also be applied to when being pressured to do drugs as well.)

  1. I can’t drink, I’m on medication/antibiotics.
  2. I can’t drink, I’m the designated driver.
  3. I can’t drink, I have practice in the morning (or a big game.)
  4. I can’t drink, I have to work in the morning and really need the money.

What would you add to the list?