I’m no size 00

Why is the American ideal of beauty so limited?

I chose to change my lifestyle (eating and exercise habits) because I want to be able to enjoy every day I have here to its fullest and feel great while doing it. I was tired of being winded walking across campus, and I definitely wasn’t happy with the way my jeans were beginning to fit.

I read an article today about how even Victoria’s Secret models are terrified of facing their body image issues. I would also be terrified knowing that the world was about to witness the inevitable…jiggling thighs and whatnot. (That’s called gravity, my friends.)

As a 21 year old woman, I have witnessed how much these women are idolized physically. Sure their faces are totally symmetrical and their hair looks voluminous times 100 on stage…thanks to stylists…but where’s the substance?

You might be thinking, “Sex sells. So what?” Therein lies the elephant in the room. We should care more than any other generation. We are influential and we are powerful as the Y Generation. We can take to the streets of social media and make things happen, if we have the desire to.

I don’t look like a high fashion model, and I never will. Sorry folks, but the “emaciated” look doesn’t work for me most days.

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I genuinely want to know why we continue to congratulate unhealthy weights. It’s exhausting growing up in a culture where perfection is just around the corner with the help of expensive beauty products and possibilities of eating disorders.

Forget dolls, give me a boob job

Little ones have more to worry about than how to share their favorite toy. 

I’m always impressed when I am confronted with a question that stumps me from a small human. But I don’t particularly enjoy answering the tough questions. Especially when they have to do with body image or confidence. It’s a delicate subject, and parents/guardians assume the role of values clarifier.

I have worked and volunteered at camps with younger students, taught tennis lessons to 4 year olds, babysat any age range you can think of, etc. My first priority is to protect any child that is under my supervision. That means protection from the obvious: bodily harm, the sun, eating things off the floor, you name it. I have noticed that something else is usually nagging at kids now, in 2013, other than the fact that they can’t dance on a countertop or touch a hot stove.

Children—girls especially—are concerned about their outward appearance. I don’t remember being genuinely concerned about my appearance until I was in fifth or sixth grade. That’s when things were about to get real…aka puberty. I was a serious tomboy who refused to wear anything other than a skort so I could play football with the boys on Boot Hill. I learned several life lessons on that hill, so I’m glad I made that executive decision at such a young age. I digress.

It doesn’t necessarily concern me that young girls are aware of their bodies. This is a great thing and will prove advantageous one day. What I’m blown away by is the fact that so many elementary aged girls are disappointed with their weight. I suppose this is inevitable considering the amount of women we see fully dressed on-screen (big or small) and in other traditional media are few and far between. Hell, even I blush at Victoria’s Secret commercials sometimes.

I’ve watched current Disney Channel shows by force, and this is the pattern I’ve noticed: the “young girl” playing the lead role is usually, in real life, 17 or 18. She is witty, but it’s only because she is taking shots at other actors/actresses on the show. She is constantly searching for her next beau, who will make her happy. Her friends are usually not as “attractive” as her, by societal standards. Why would they be? They’re not the lead role. She is struggling between being a rebel and following the rules, which leads to her deceiving her parents. Blah, blah, blah. I have built up disdain for these shows. The acting is pretty terrible, the plot lines are non-existent, and everyone on the show looks PERFECT 100% of the time.

Where are the role models? Where is the strong girl who doesn’t care if she has the perfect outfit on? Why can’t kids just be kids for as long as possible then join the rest of the cranky world when they’re old enough to go to PG-13 movies?

If I could give advice to every little girl about growing up, this is what I would say:

  1. It’s cool to be smart
  2. Right now it doesn’t seem like being in charge of a bunch of boys is that much fun, but believe me it is
  3. You are worth more than your makeup
  4. You are also worth more than the tears you cried after a school dance (I’ve been there.)
  5. You have the ability to do incredible things when you least expect yourself to
  6. If you don’t keep your head up, no one else is going to hold it up for you
  7. Your parents can’t fight all of your battles
  8. Friends come and go
  9. Find your niche—hopefully it’s a productive one

I’m not a parent, so I’ll accept any and all criticism. Hopefully, if I am blessed to parent children, this blog post will come in handy.

Empowerment and whatnot

I never thought I was a “pretty girl” in high school.

To be completely honest, I didn’t give myself time to worry about what I looked like when I was at school. I knew what clothes I was going to wear (uniforms–dreaded khakis and navy/white polos) and hardly ever found the time to fix my hair in a reasonable fashion.

I wanted to give off the appearance that I didn’t need any type of positive reinforcement for how I dressed/looked/acted, but secretly I was desperate for turning heads and flirtatious glances. Again, I never thought I was “attractive.” I think that stemmed from going against the grain; I didn’t tan, I didn’t have to touch up my roots and I usually wore a sports bra to school.

I wasn’t doing this in spite of the status quo or societal norms. I just didn’t care or (again) didn’t have the time to be concerned. There was still that little voice in my head telling me I was missing out on something; I wasn’t asked on many dates and I usually went to dances with guy friends. I certainly didn’t date much, and I liked to make the excuse that I wasn’t interested in anyone.

I was one of the lucky ones, though. I had the opportunity to prove I was something other than “pretty.” I was always encouraged to challenge myself in other ways and pursue leadership opportunities when they presented themselves. (Thanks, mom.) I also like to think that I was freakishly mature in some ways, which made social settings kind of awkward.

Basically, I wasn’t hot by anyone’s standards. In hindsight, I’m kind of glad. I was able to be successful based upon my talents not easily seen at first glance. I was confident in my intellect and wanted to leave the place I called home to learn more. Again, I was one of the lucky ones.

What young girls need RIGHT NOW is for someone to tell them how special they are. It doesn’t have to be every minute or even every day, but it has to be said by someone other than the guy they have a crush on. Girls in middle school and high school need to know what they are capable of contributing to society–something other than a sexy body or pretty face. There isn’t enough genuine, authentic love represented in our culture (especially via reality TV).

No wonder girls are so quick to compete to be the “sexy” one at age…what…13? That’s atrocious. You can’t be sexy at 13.

So, from a woman who has found her confidence but still needs some encouragement:

  1. Embrace the awkward stage as much as possible.
  2. Life gets better after high school.
  3. Pick your passions and your role models wisely.
  4. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  5. Someone will appreciate you for your quirks one day, I promise.

There are websites and blogs devoted to being a smart girl and loving yourself. I would love to use my talents in social media and education in creating workshops that would encourage self-esteem and discourage irrational social media use in middle and high school-aged girls. We are all reporters and publishers in the world of social media, and we all disseminate information each day to our audiences. We have to hold ourselves accountable and work diligently to avoid future Steubenville cases.