“I wish I was as skinny as Emily.”

PSA: We are perpetuating our own worst enemy.

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I recently got to spend one-on-one time with my favorite seven-year-old. After an invigorating conversation about her expertise on the monkey bars, she said something that shocked me.

“I wish I was as skinny as Emily.”

Taken aback and tempted to plead with her to never say such a thing again, my only response was “Don’t be silly. You’re skinny and beautiful as you are.”

Later that night, I pondered her statement again. As a fit seven-year-old, free from the harm of sitting at a desk all day and still energized with a fast metabolism, what on earth could have caused her to say such a thing? How does she even know the concept of being “skinnier”? How could she have already adopted the miserable habit of comparing herself to others?

Then it hit me. It’s our fault. All of ours.

By negatively talking about wanting to be skinnier, healthier, prettier, more “put together”, we, as a society, have unconsciously created mini versions of ourselves that will only perpetuate this negative self-talk, critical body image and pressure to compare ourselves to others.

Though I tend to be less concerned with body image than many people, I do catch myself saying things like “I really need to get my act together and eat better this week” or “Wow, my arms look huge in that picture” or “No, I’ll buy new jeans once I lose a few more pounds”.

As adults, we should be concerned about our health and there’s nothing wrong with keeping track of what we eat or setting goals to be more active. But when saying these things in a negative light, we forget who is listening – younger people who learn from our self-talk and the connotations we express.

The answer? We need to change the way we talk about our health, our fitness, our bodies. We need to say things like “I’ll have one cookie, but not until I eat some veggies.” or “Let’s go outside and ride bikes.” instead of things like “I haven’t gone to the gym yet today, but I’m being a ‘fattie’ so I’ll have a cookie” or “Gosh, I wish I had skinny arms like so-and-so.”

I don’t know about you, but I think seven-year-olds should be more concerned with jumping on trampolines and eating ice cream with rainbow sprinkles instead of worrying about how “skinny” they are.

The only way to affect the future is to change the now. May we be stronger, more positive and less critical both for ourselves and all those who look up to us. Our family, friends and loved ones learn from what we say and do. Let’s teach them something positive.

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