Being an Influential Sibling: Negative Self Talk Can Be Damaging
Growing up in today’s world, being constantly bombarded by unrealistic ideals of beauty, children younger and younger are beginning to engage in negative self talk. This can come in the many forms from “I can’t” to “I wish I was skinnier”. Seeing this in your own child can be disturbing, but there is the possibility that the habit stems from their favorite role model and biggest idol, their sibling.
As a high school student, I have found from personal experience that this habit can be picked up by siblings who are younger, and who look up to you. I spent a lot of time criticizing my body and its flaws as I saw them, and the habit of voicing these thoughts became a ritual I engaged in without being conscious of it. I noticed my sister beginning the same habit that I had, and it worried me. She would complain about her body, asking over and over if she had “love handles” and how to get rid of them. She was only 12, and I found it really upsetting.
One always hears about how parents, especially mothers, should not talk negatively about themselves in front of their children, but it is just as big an issue with sibling relationships. Older siblings can be even more influential in the life of a young child than the parents. They are certainly closer in age, and are looked up to a lot by the younger of the children. When younger siblings observe the older one engaging in an activity, they pay close attention and try to, or subconsciously begin to replicate the actions of the older. This especially translates with negative self talk, or body “shaming” (wishing for a better so and so, or that they looked more like somebody else, etc.). Constantly comparing themselves to someone else, be it a best friend, celebrity, or a random person they see, makes it seem like there is a lack of desire to be who and what you are. When we receive compliments, I have noticed, we tend to disagree with them, and try to convince the giver of the compliment that they have a nicer or better version. Unfortunately, putting oneself down in front of friends becomes a common ritual that many teenage girls participate in.
Turning around negative self talk can be done, but needs conscious effort put into it and close watch put on the stream of consciousness in your head. I can be helpful to notice, stop, and reshape/correct negative thoughts when they arise or are said. Changing the behavior of negative self talk can be beneficial for your daughter or sister, as it allows her to hear people acknowledging and appreciating themselves the way they are. Quieting the negative voice in us is something we all have to strive to do. Being conscious of what you say about yourself and how critical you are in front of your daughter or sibling is very important. Older siblings can be some of the most influential people in a young person’s life. Your younger siblings may be modeling their behavior and habits based on you and how you conduct yourself. Leading by example in the best way to teach.
Being conscious of what we say around our children and siblings can make a big difference in how they perceive themselves and the world. Teaching them love and respect for their bodies is essential in combating the world of negativity that we are exposed to through the unreal standards set by the media and peoples imaginations.