Body Image and Validation

As we are headed out to Spring Break, many of our clients are expressing feelings about the dreaded bathing suit season.  At Austin Therapy for Girls, hearing about girls’ body shame can happen any time of the year.  We often hear phrases such as, “My thighs are too big.” (recent 8-year-old client) or “I don’t want to go anywhere in a bathing suit.” (recent 13-year-old girl)
After watching the movie 8th grade last year, I had flashbacks to that awkward and shame producing time of being invited to a swimming parties and not wanting to go because of feeling self -conscious about my body. Truth be told, I am still feeling some of that as I venture to a beach during Spring Break now with the added fear of my body not seeing the sun for the last 4 months so epic sunburn fears as well. When we hear about body shame the first thing I want to do (like most parents we see) is convince the girl that what she is thinking is not TRUE. Tell them how beautiful they are and creative and wonderful etc…  However, this is NOT HELPFUL. In fact, it might actually make the feelings worst.
What we all need is some good old fashion Validation. Validation to me is the feeling of someone understanding exactly how I feel and being able to verbalize it. If empathy is feeling with someone, validation is empathy in action.  Based on our recent Emotion Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) sessions, we have been practicing our validation skills in a very effective way. Remember validation does not mean we agree with the statement, just with the emotion.
Here are some favorite shortcuts to validation especially around body image:
I can only imagine how difficult going to the swimming party must be (key is to state 3 reasons(becauses))
Because this is your first time in a bathing suit, because Emily your old friend might be there and because you’ re feeling really self-conscious about your body.
I get why you would feel insecure about your body because you might be comparing your thighs to others, because your clothes don’t fit the way they used to and because you might hear me talk about my body in a negative way.
I can totally understand why you don’t want to________because_____________because_________and because_______________
Once you have the feeling of validation then you can have a rational authentic conversation.
To learn more about EFFT and practices check out the free resources on their website or schedule a parent session with Shayna or Kelly.  If you are a therapist, we love it so much that we are hosting a conference here in ATX.
To learn about Mighty Girls book recommendation about body image for all ages click here
For parents/adults we love the podcast BodyKindness 

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