She’s Popular Because She’s Skinny

boaw-logo-2015-originalHi there!  Welcome to my blog for the Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest! 

I recently had a car full of 12-13 year old girls, and they were chatting away about school, friends, and sports.  One of them talked about a girl they knew, and somebody said, “She’s really popular.  She’s so skinny.”

As a mom driving, I have to say:  RED LIGHT, CLANGING WARNING SIGN, REVERSE.  But I kept my cool.  Honest.  I did.

And I didn’t hit them with a…it matters what’s inside.  Nope.  Not the cool mom.  Not this time, anyway.  (That is usually met with an eye roll, BTW…even though it’s true).

I think it’s important to note here that all the kids in my car were healthy and in great shape from a myriad of sports.  ALL of them.

So what I did was ask about the girl.  Was she nice?  Yes.  Smart?  Yes.  Confident in talking to people, especially boys?  Yes.  So maybe that’s why she’s popular?  (I’ve already learned not to question who is popular, what it really means, and who decides who is popular.  That, too, is met with eye rolls.  Instead, subtle questions about personality seem to help.)

So there was a general consensus that maybe the girl was popular because she was happy with herself and confident talking to people.  But one girl connected dots…you see where this is going, right?  Maybe the girl was confident because she’s skinny.

Crap.  She was probably confident because she was comfortable with how she looks.  And to everyone in the car…she looked skinny.  RED LIGHT, BACKTRACK, SAY SOMETHING.  So we talked about feeling good and what makes them feel good.  (The answers ranged from spiking volleyballs to getting a good grade to boy stuff).  Not once did they mention weight.

So I (very subtly) pointed that out and fell silent.  (You can’t say too much.  Trust me).

I hope the point was made a little bit.  But in today’s society, with photoshop and air brushing, even the people we see in magazines aren’t real.  It’s hard to be a parent now (as I’m sure it was when we were kids), but what I’ve noticed is that kids are smart.  Really smart.  And when you point out the flaws in thinking…then they really start thinking.

Even so, I wish parenting was easier and not full of landmines.  I hope honest discussion helps, and I hope blog fests like this that celebrate real beauty gets us all talking…and listening. 

There are TONS of fun prizes, so make sure you head over to the main page and enter the contests by clicking here!  The contest opens at 7:30am PST and runs until March 1st.  Good luck!

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25 thoughts on “She’s Popular Because She’s Skinny”

  1. minga portillo says:

    I have a 10 year old daughter who came home the other day crying because a boy called her ugly.

  2. Oh, wow. What a sad occurrence, but what a beautiful response.

    I’m not a parent, but I really believe that those open, honest discussions help. Serious trouble arrises when these issues go unaddressed—and focusing on what makes girls feel good is vital for building self-confidence and guarding against tumult. You may’ve changed those girls’ lives for the better.

    Thank you for being a positive light, and for participating in the fest!

    1. August said just what I felt–great answer! Keep up your awesome parenting, and helping them think. I think YOU are an amazing mom.

  3. Hmm I wonder what happened to rest of my comment. LOL But yes. My daughter came home in tears because of this boy. But what struck out and made me proud was her statement to me when I told by no means was she ugly.. She told me that I know I am not ugly but the words hurt. We as parents try really hard to prepare our kids for the ugliness of middle and high school. And sometimes adult hood. Self esteem is something I think every child struggles with. Heck even as an adult I struggle. All these books I read I see how the heroine is described and I think to myself I will never look like that. But I like to pretend I do. Our kids are so much smarter than we were at that age. Or is it because they actually listen to us when we don’t see them rolling their eyes at us. 🙂

  4. Jan Morrill says:

    I love hearing your internalization about how to respond to the chatting from the backseat. As a skinny girl who was often teased for her “skinniness,” I can say that just being skinny doesn’t make the world a better place. You were so wise to turn the conversation to what makes the girls feel good.

    Beauty comes from feeling good about yourself, and that should have nothing to do with weight.

    Really enjoyed your post!

  5. Mina says:

    I have two boys, very young yet, but I struggle with how to raise them to see people in a true light and not the way a magazine editor would. I want them to feel great about themselves and make others feel good being who they are. I like your approach. They need to think about it. Also, with kids that age, they need to think it is THEIR idea and not what mom told them. 🙂

  6. My daughter is 4, but I am taking notes! I know the teenage years seem far away, but they’ll be here before I know it. It’s really tough to navigate through all of the mixed messages we get as young women.

  7. Wow! I am so impressed by your self-restraint. I would have been all over them, and eye-rolling would have been followed by stony silence from the backseat.

    You handled this beautifully! And as August said, no doubt really helped those girls with your words.

  8. KM Huber says:

    Your daughter and her friends are quite fortunate to have a sensitive “mom” who only wants them to see the beauty in themselves so they will see it in others. Great post.

  9. Kate says:

    Great post, Rebecca. I love how you asked them all questions and had them think it through. I have a fifteen year old. I do what I can to help her and her friends see outside the box and see beneath the surface of things. It isn’t always easy, but I think it’s our duties as “elders” to not only exemplify what it means to be beautiful but to also help them see that they are beautiful ~ regardless of their shapes, sizes, colors, etc. Well said, Mom 😉

  10. ruth dennis says:

    I am a great grandmother of 4 and one more on the way. I hear my daughter tell her daughter who was always thin that she is pretty and what counts is she is a very good friend. In September my granddaughter got married and she had 8 bridesmaids because she had so many friends. My daughter still has friends she went to grade school with. I told my children beauty passes but friendships will last a lifetime. We live in Ohio and my granddaughter had friends come from as far as california Florida Pennsylvania and new york to her wedding. So I hope this is a message she will pass on to her children.

  11. I loved this! I miss the days of spending time with my daughter and her friends just hanging out (she’s away at college now). I don’t think anyone will disagree that junior high is a tough age and the more real we are with our kids, the more we can speak to them on their level, I think the more we connect with them. Way to go Mom! 🙂

  12. Samara says:

    I have daughters and I always try to encourage them on their accomplishments like their grades or sports.

  13. Amaryllis T says:

    I mentor teenagers and I know what you mean. It is a little different because I am seen as a big sister instead of the mom, but I try to steer them to the view point that weight or size does not equate pretty.

  14. Somehow, with good luck, good grace and lots of prayer, I parented a strong, beautiful woman who is successful in being the best her she can be. It is such an honor to be old enough to hear this daughter have this type of conversation with her daughters, in much the same way I had them with her. We share what we learn and you have given your daughter and her friends words to think about and to share with their children when that time comes. Well done

  15. Thanks for sharing this. Your response to the girls reads like a parenting handbook. I have two teenage boys, and I wish I could stay in such cool possession of my wits when responding to things I hear from them. I console myself with the fact that more than anything we say, how we live our lives makes a lasting impression.

    1. Rebecca Zanetti says:

      Believe me, I was flying blind there. 🙂 I never know exactly what to say and always hope I’m not saying the wrong thing.

  16. Well done, finding those teachable moments and not lecturing but asking questions is a skill!

  17. This reminded me of my own nasty, judgmental middle school years. I so desperately wanted to be popular. I’m glad you were there to gently moderate that conversation.

  18. Amy Kennedy says:

    You are a cool mom! But seriously, you are. Don’t know if I could have kept my cool like you did, and thus shutting down all lines of communication. You are sooo right, I’m sure everyone of those girls went home and continued to think about the conversation.

  19. Susie Lindau says:

    Communication is everything. My daughter is 23 and still calls me every day. Keep the lines open! I saw your comment up above. Always stick with your gut and don’t worry about being direct, but be consistent.
    Great discussion.

  20. Brilliant work subtly pointing out other things then stepping back and letting them think it out. It’s sounds incredibly hard to navigate the teen scene and you did a great job steering things gently back to a better thought process. It’s hard to not think thin is why people are liked because society bombards us with that idea everywhere.

  21. Rayne says:

    “So there was a general consensus that maybe the girl was popular because she was happy with herself and confident talking to people. ” Rebecca that is so insightful and way to change the girls perception! When this discussion with my future children come up I will know exactly what to say. XO

  22. Rhonda Campbell says:

    I absolutely love the way you handled this! It’s so easy to say straight out what we think making them feel defensive. I have a bad habit of this, then I’m left backtracking and trying to explain the way you did. So I applaud you for thinking first! Great job, now maybe they will see the truth, A’s long as you are happy with yourself and have confidence then others will like you. Looks don’t really matter!’

  23. How scary is it that I can think back on my tween and early teen years and remember when my friends would say the same thing? It was at that age that I started to hear my friends talking about dieting, etc. and it freaked me out.

    I was one of those fortunate kids whose mother told her at an early age (she was very involved in church) that I was made in God’s image and that my body was a temple to be treated with respect, and that beauty started from within and radiated outward. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it made my perspective on body image very different than my friends. It also may explain why I’ve spent a large part of my life working with women (first friends in school, then most women I run into) on recognizing inner beauty and building self esteem.

    I love the way you redirected this conversation into recognizing other aspects of beauty! If you even got through to one of them, it’s awesome! Go you!