Introduction: Body image is a very serious and sensitive issue for teens especially for young women. Our world sends the damaging message that one is not valued unless they are thin and attractive. Young women are pressured by society, their community, their peers, and sadly sometimes even their parents or other family members/adults. This strain is often on top of other demands such as excelling in school and performing well in sports and other extracurricular activities. The following poem expresses how one young woman feels the pressure to be perfect.
by Laura Veuve
--Shocking studies show eating disorders
on the rise in teenage girls—
You should have seen this coming
You raised me
Your society screwed me up
I read your hypocritical magazines
I went to your schools
I dealt with your sons’ running commentaries
My parents can’t protect me
My friends can’t protect me
My wonderful, loving,
ignorant community can’t protect me
So I protect them
I have to cope to survive
Why hurt them too?
Oh, I’m fine, Mom
~ smile ~
[From: Things I have to tell you: poems and writing by teenage girls. By Betsy Franco and Nina Nickles, Candlewick Press, 2001.]
Extension: Let you students know that Ms. Veuve was 15 years old when she wrote this poem. Her feelings reflect how many young people feel about body image. Let your students know that there are no benefits from focusing on what they believe are their flaws. Ask them to list 5-10 good qualities they have (they do not have share this with class). Encourage your class to get plenty of exercise, even if it is only a 10 minute walk, and to make healthier food choices such as eating more fruits and vegetables. Ask them to spend less time in front of the mirror and to treat their bodies with respect and kindness.