Tag: body image

Celebrate her for what she does, not what she looks like

Picture a girl who is 12 years old. A girl with short, spiky, gelled hair. And braces. A girl who stands already at 6 feet tall, a head above most of her teachers. A girl described as “gangly” by others and as “ugly” by her own words. A girl who has less than a drop of self-confidence, desperately looking for validation.

That girl was me.

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If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would think, “I don’t really care as long as I’m pretty.” I truly believed that the worth of a woman was dependent on her level of attractiveness. I got so much attention when I was younger. I was so cute before, but now, at 12, my cuteness abandoned me. No more “awwwws.” No more pinched cheeks. No more attention.

I felt worthless.

How many hours did I spend glaring at the mirror and naming my flaws? Nose too big. Thighs too wide. Too damn tall. And what if I added that to how many days I spent comparing myself to airbrushed images? Her skin so perfect. Her curves just right. What if we multiply that by every girl in our society who has responded in kind to the pressure to be physically beautiful? The self-harm. The isolation. The plastic surgery. I can’t even begin doing the math for that equation.

We all know the mainstream media deserves a lot of the blame. Thin, beautiful, white women grace magazine covers. The movies I grew up with depicted women as the love interest for the leading man with no real story of her own. Songs on the radio told the story of heartbroken girls, doomed to unhappiness because they lost their man. That’s old news. But how are we, as everyday people, reinforcing these messages? I believe it’s in how we praise our girls.

I was sitting on a park bench in Berkeley when I saw a little girl, no more than 5, in a bright yellow dress skip-walking down the path, wildly swinging the hand of her grown up. She yell-sang a song about “froggies” on a log. Every time she sang the words “hop-hop” it was accompanied by, you guessed it, two big jumps and an eruption of giggles.

I heard a lady a few benches before me say to her, “Well, aren’t you the cutest girl I ever did see?” I watched as a couple passing the girl stopped to tell her, “You look so pretty in your yellow dress!” She beamed at the compliments and flitted her hand as she sang, “Thank youuuuuuuuu!”

In my years of working with youth, I learned that young people (and all people, really) respond best to positive reinforcement. Celebrating behavior tends to make kids want to repeat that behavior. So, when the majority of celebrations girls hear directly correlate to their appearance, it can have devastating effects. It strengthens the idea that for a girl to be valued, she must look a certain way. So. Much. Pressure. Pressure to be something you cannot control. Pressure that manifests in self-harm, self-hatred, and unhealthy competitive behavior between girls.

At Go Girls! Camp, we work with awareness to celebrate our girls for what she can DO! What she can MAKE! What she can DISCOVER! So when the yellow-clad girl passed my bench I made a point to take another route.

“Did you make up that amazing song you’re singing?” I asked.

She gave a little nod and smile as she twisted the hem of her dress.

“That is one of the coolest songs I ever heard. I love froggies!” (The last part was yell-sung in the same tune she had made up.)

“Thank you! Me too!” she squealed and went hop-hopping away.

I know that the lady on the bench and the couple in the park who praised that little girl were only trying to be nice. To make her feel good. I get it. The truth is… she was cute. She oozed with adorable-ness. It can be hard not to celebrate that.

Appearance, to an extent, is luck of the draw. You can’t control your hair type. The shape of your nose. The fullness of your lips. Your bone structure. These things are not ACCOMPLISHMENTS, they are something you HAVE. Where is the power in finding validation through that? Is it not more empowering to be validated about something you CAN control? Like what you do? What you think? What you imagine? And no matter how much outward beauty one possesses, it will fade. Our society pushes women to find worth in something that will inevitably fail them in the future. It makes me heart-sick how we set up our girls to grow into women full of emotional turmoil. With time, youthful beauty may fade, but knowledge grows. Skills strengthen. Discoveries deepen.

I am not suggesting we never praise girls for their appearance. I am suggesting that we validate them for other things more often, especially the first time we meet them.

I spent so much time as a girl hating myself for looking a certain way. Imagine if I had used that time to learn. To grow. To try new things. To build skills. I wish I could hold 12 year old Hannah and tell her these things. I wish I could whisper to her that she is just right as she is. I wish I could praise her for what an amazing athlete she is. How fun and adventurous she is. How easily she can make people laugh. How much power she has within her.

I know these things now. How did I learn to love myself? Through a lot of suffering and mistakes. Like hurting myself. Like starving my body. Like a nose job at 16. Like addiction. I punished myself because I couldn’t DO anything to be pretty. I didn’t understand I was just right already. That I was worthy of my own love.

This is why I do what I do. I dedicate my time, my energy, and my gifts to help girls love themselves. The funny thing is, I don’t have the power to just hand them self-love. All girls have that love inside them already. I just work to help them unlock it. And never lose the key.

Challenge:

Give a girl in your life a compliment on something other than how she looks. Ask her what she is proud of that she can do or that she can accomplish. Take one small, easy step to help unlock her personal power. How did she respond? Share with us!

5 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body

Today is the International Day of the Girl!

What if we lived in a world where all girls loved their bodies?  What if we lived a world where girls’ bodies were celebrated for their strength and ability instead of victimized, vilified, and commodified?  What if we lived in a world where girls felt safe to run and jump and dance and walk whenever and wherever they wanted without fear?

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What if?

Today, as communities around the world come together to re-image and co-create this kind of world, I am thinking about how powerful it is to help our girls learn to love their bodies…no matter what.  I am thinking about how powerful it will be to have hundreds of Go Girls! stand up in the face of everyone and everything that seeks to threaten them and say “My body is mine.  It belongs to me.  I love it no matter what size, shape, or color it is.  And I am going to do everything in my power to celebrate it and keep it safe.”

How can you help?  The best way to help girls love their bodies are to provide them with as many opportunities as possible to experience their bodies in positive ways:

  1. Model for your girls what it looks like to love your body.  This is number 1 because it is the most important.  I understand that we may not have had the best models ourselves.  We may believe that we have “fat thighs” or “bad hair”.  Of course we do.  Women and girls are inundated with messages that we should hate our imperfect bodies.  The way society is set up is not our fault.  However, we now have a responsibility to our daughters to do something about it.  We can stop the spread of these awful messages by never letting our girls hear/see us put ourselves down.  Next time you catch yourself about to say “oh, I really need to go on a diet” or “oh no, Mommy could never wear anything like that,” replace it with “I love that I get to exercise and make by body stronger” or “That’s a cute dress but I think I will look even MORE fabulous in this one!”  This will change both you and her for the better.  Sure, it will take time.  We have a lot to undo.  But, we have to start somewhere.  Why not be the change we wish to see in the world?
  2. Go for regular runs or walks.  Put on your sneakers, grab the dog, and hit the road.  The more your daughter feels her feet against the earth, the more she will enjoy it.
  3. Sign her up for a sport.  Even if she thinks she won’t like it.  Make her do it, at least once.  When girls play sports, mountains are moved.
  4. Dance and dance often.  It is my opinion that, like sports, every girl should take a dance class, at least once.  The integration of physical strength with physical expression is a magical combination.  It’s the perfect intersection of kinesthetic learning and emotional learning.  But class is not 100% necessary.  Anyone can dance.  Just put on music and go.  You do it too.  Regular dance parties – full of laughter and sweat – should be a ritual in your home.
  5. Practice Body Gratitudes – You may already share stuff about your day or about your life that you are grateful for.  Now, add stuff about your body.  “I am grateful for my hands because they help me make art.”

And watch this video with your daughter.  Talk to her about it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CSQOUaWF4o&w=420&h=315]

Here’s a template for your conversation…

How does this video make you feel?  How do you feel about your body?  Which parts do you love the best?  Do you ever think mean thoughts about your body? Let’s practice replacing our mean thoughts with kind thoughts.

This post is #5 of 25 Tips to Teach Your Daughter to Respect Herself, Command Respect, and Respect Others.  Wanna make sure you get all 25 Tips for Bullying Awareness Month?  CLICK HERE and we’ll send ’em right to your email!
For more incredible Go Girls! resources for helping your girl stay safe, happy, and healthy in her relationships, check out Kidpower and get your copy of Starring Celia.

Spark! Four Secrets to Stop Feeling So Stressed Out

Photo Feb 08, 12 49 06 PM*We’re talking to a lot of parents that are feeling stressed out trying to juggle work ‘and summer schedules — and still squeeze in time to make fabulous family memories, too. That’s why we wanted to pass along these fabulous tips in I Shine creator Jill Hope’s Parenting Stress – Four Strategies to Lessen Tension and Live More Peacefully.

Remember: “Each day you have an opportunity to make a fresh start; to act in a new way. If you’ve behaved in a way that you are not proud of, don’t dwell on it. Before you get out of bed, spend a few minutes thinking about how you want to day to unfold.” Read the rest on Stress-Free Kids.

*We’re kind of loving the idea behind Good Virus: Kindness Is Contagious,  a documentary exploring “the idea of kindness as an emotional contagion, and a force for good in the world.” Read more about this exciting project on The Huffington Post, which ends with this provocation:”Imagine kindness as a good virus, and think about how it spreads by good intentions coupled with kind actions. In a world that often seems filled with every social element but kindness, maybe it’s not too late to begin a kindness revolution.”

*Here’s to helping our girls develop healthy body images! Check out Towards the Stars list of great books that can help you help her stay active, make good choices — and love her body, no matter what size it is. We’d love to hear about any other great tools you’ve found to add to this list of resources!

*ONE LAST THING: Love this parenting tip Rebecca from ITwixie shared on Twitter: “Is your girl ‘bossy?’ Embrace it, she’s a born leader!”

Spark! Study shows how media impacts girls’ body image

test-go-girl-background-1.png*SPARKsummit has the results of a fascinating study about how images of female athletes impact girls own feelings about their bodies:

“It seems like looking at images of women playing sports made girls more aware of what their own bodies could do rather than simply how they looked – which is super awesome!  On the other hand, girls who looked at the sexualized images (either of athletes or models) were more likely to describe themselves in terms of their beauty or appearance and these descriptions were often negative (e.g., “I am ugly”).

Read more here!

*We are following the protests here in Oakland since George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin — and thinking of our neighbors at Youth Radio, whose windows were smashed.

We were glad to read in The Huffington Post that Youth Radio’s Executive Director  Richard Raya “is planning a series of public forums in which community members are encouraged to discuss Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and wider social justice issues.” Count us in!

*Getting over a math phobia can be tough — for our kids and for us. That’s why we signed up for an awesome free online class for parents and educators from Stanford. The class is “a short intervention designed to change students’ relationships with math… it caused students to re-engage successfully with math, taking a new approach to the subject and their learning.” Sign up for How to Learn Math now!

*We’ve written before about ideas for beating summer boredom, but here’s another great reminder from the awesome Annie Fox:

“If we teach kids that it’s our job to do for everything for them, why should they bother learning to be creative? Why should they even bother thinking about what they might enjoy doing? Summer can feel especially long when every moment of every day is unstructured. But a long summer can be such a gift to the imagination and the spirit.”

Read her helpful advice for staying strong through the summer on her blog.

*ONE LAST THING: Feeling grumpy? Unusual schedules, the costs of camps and vacations and your kids constant craving for junk food  can overwhelm even the most mellow parents. That’s why we’re laughing about Playground Dad’s awesome 3 Ways to Get Your Summer Mojo Back As a Parent, which includes this great gem: “…if you’re like me, you’re tired of constantly saying no to everything your kids ask. Recently, after saying no for weeks on end, I agreed to a water balloon fight with the boy. I got my ass kicked. In the end I was soaked and freezing, and it was pretty excellent. So next time you’re about to say no, think:  could it be yes?”

Spark! Making Time for Family Meals

family_dinner*On the dotcomplicated blog, author Carol Archambeault writes such a smart reminder about the power of unplugging  In “Why You Should Dine Tech Free,” she promotes the idea of turning off devices during shared meals with friends and family. She writes, “I offer that we all need meaningful interaction every day with another person to offset the sometimes isolating effects of our digital world.” We couldn’t agree more. Read her advice for establishing great ground rules for mealtimes, then tell us: What other ideas do you have for creating memorable meals with loved ones?

*If you worry you helicopter too much, check out this article about how to stop overparenting, which was recently reprinted on StressFreeKids: According to the article, a new study conducted by psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein “found that parental concern is not a good indicator of a child’s happiness or how good a parent-child relationship will be. What does affect satisfaction and well-being? ‘Teaching autonomy and independence, using positive reinforcement instead of punishment, and being loving and attentive,’ Epstein explains.”

*And speaking of independence…. are your kids spending time at sleep-away camp — or on another adventure away from you this summer? You might want to check out KidsHealth‘s article on homesickness, which includes lots of great tips for kids about how to deal with feeling down. We love that it concludes with this sweet reminder: “Remember that there’s a good side to homesickness, too: It means you have family and friends worth missing and a place you want to return to when your adventure away from home is over.”

ONE LAST THING: Summertime is often when moms and other women start doing a lot of “fat talk,” complaining about the body flaws they perceive. ITwixie’s Rebecca gives us a good reason to hold back,”Want your tween to be confident in her appearance? Stop talking negatively about your body. She’s listening.”