“In the USA anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents”. This is one of the disturbing facts in an article on ‘body-bashing’ in Teenvogue.

It’s ironic to find a piece like this in a magazine which is part of the problem rather than the cure. Elsewhere in the mag there are skinny models, endless makeup tips and a tons of advice on “love, life and fashion”.  It’s the height of hypocrisy to pretend to be surprised when teens get so frantic about their physical appearance.

“It’s not how you look it’s how you feel” was one of my Dad’s favourite catchphrases but then again he never had any daughters. It’s not how you feel it’s how you look would seem to be the message to young women from most glossy magazines and TV ‘entertainment’ shows. Add to this the tidal wave of peer pressure that social networks generate and you have a recipe for a kind of global identity crisis.

I can view this phenomena in the abstract and monitor its effects on my teenage daughter:

  • She is underweight but still thinks she has a big belly.
  • She gets more compliments through being painfully thin than she would if she was a normal weight.
  • She won’t go out in hot weather unless she has total sun block cream. She says she wants to be pale and interesting.
  • She talks a lot about food and cooks regularly but hardly eats anything.
  • She complains about being out of shape but refuses to do vigorous physical exercise because she’s afraid of getting too many muscles.
  • She regularly puts on makeup then stays indoors.
  • She spends an age to get ready to go out but criticises others for being vain.
  • She doesn’t consider herself a slave to fashion but down dresses meticulously.

Put simply, she’s a walking contradiction. You could write this behaviour off as an adolescent phase but there’s plenty of evidence around to make me concerned that she won’t simply grow out of it.

Love and accept the way you are’ is the common advice of armchair psychologists and new age gurus but this is easier said than done when feeling good about yourself depends so much on how you are perceived by others.