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.

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Cellulite

You’re probably thinking…where is this going? (Which is a totally appropriate response.)

I don’t know why today was the day in particular that all of my news feeds were bombarded with images of bikini-clad movie stars or articles focusing specifically on the C word, but Monday is a good a day as any to discuss something most women come to loathe by age 12.

I think I’ve had cellulite since I was 10. It really wasn’t a big deal; the genetic history of the women in my family pretty much predicted that it would happen. Of course by age 16, I was mortified to wear a bathing suit or shorts that might actually show something that was (and still is) considered an imperfection.

Now I embrace the fact that I am a little…let me think of common euphamisms…juicier(?)…thicker(?)…bootylicious…yes…than the average Jane. I love my curves, and since I have been learning to love my body through self-motivation and a desire to be fit, I know I look good in clothes. And guess what everyone? I still have cellulite.

I suppose the most important takeaway from this article is that cellulite will never go away. You can’t work it off, no matter how many lunges or squats you do. It’s biological, and you can’t replace your epidermis…unless you’re contemplating a scene from Silence of the Lambs.

Also, it’s been leaked that this man is the one in charge of pointing out the imperfections of movie stars and actresses. So since body shaming apparently permeates society, then we should all be ashamed of what is genetically and biologically normal right? Hell no. We should embrace the fact that we look natural. And honestly ladies, if a man has a serious problem with the fact that you don’t have creamy, photoshopped thighs…he’s probably not worth it.

If only Richard Simmons was my instructor

You have to admit he had a way with words and his projection of those words.

(Disclaimer: This was inspired by a long run and a glass or two of red wine.)

I’ve been working my ass off since November in terms of fitness. It’s difficult as a college student to genuinely be healthy–mind, body, etc.–but I’m trying. It’s not a matter of hours you spend being active or the amount of calories you intake, though, and that has been difficult for me to conceptualize. 

I played 3 varsity sports in high school. I was always tired of running in circles for coaches (literally in cross country). My problem was that I never saw the benefit of being incredibly active. I was more concerned with how my body looked versus how I felt. By the time I came to LSU, I was burnt out on sports and suicide drills. And maybe this is super cliche, but now that I’m at the point in my life where I’m really comfortable in my skin…I would rather feel good than be concerned with how I look in an obnoxiously tight dress. 

I think that’s the bulk of the problem, America. We are so transfixed with our physical image versus how we feel when endorphins are released or how being all-around healthy (diet, exercise, sleep) can make EVERY LITTLE thing you do 10x more enjoyable. Seriously. Even the mundane things that you really can’t stand seem a little less annoying because you’re not exhausted and you’re energized by something other than an extra grande cafe’ latte. 

I’m no fitness expert, but I notice that now I look forward to my morning workout and afternoon jog. It clears my mind, releases some built-up stress and anxiety and makes me excited to take part in whatever I have planned for the rest of the day and night.

Every body is different, and we all find our solace in varying ways. Exercise is the same way. If Zumba is where you feel most comfortable, dance your ass off. If you would rather run the levee when no one is around, I understand completely. My one piece of advice: Give your body a chance to feel the best it can ever feel and it will repay you in the long run. 

“What does Richard Simmons have to do with anything, Erin?”

Well that’s a great question. 

The title works well…let me explain. Sometimes we need a little motivation. We like that instant gratification of ‘mapping our run’ or ‘checking in’ at the gym on Foursquare. If you need someone to truly motivate you to get to that next level–whatever that level may be–just ask. I know it seems odd and makes you feel vulnerable, but I guarantee that someone reading your post on Facebook or tweet about wanting to walk the lakes or check out a Group X class at the UREC will respond and want to know when you’re going. 

Take some risks; sweat a little more; forget about who’s watching you.

You have one life. Make it a healthy one. 

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.

I am my worst critic

Being a human being can be challenging.

I am well aware that I am going to be the first person to have something negative to say about myself in my very own head. As Hannah from Girls states, “No one could ever hate me as much as I hate myself, okay? So any mean thing someone’s gonna think of to say about me, I’ve already said to me, about me, probably in the last half hour!”

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We do this to ourselves, ladies and gentlemen. We refuse to believe that people compliment us genuinely because they want us to know how much they love our hair, our sense of humor, our room decor…whatever. Compliments are hard to come by. Therefore, I have to take Amy’s advice in her most recent Smart Girls video concerning negativity when she advises us to just say “Thank you” when someone gives us a compliment.

Example: I think it’s a pretty valid estimation when I say that a roundabout 85% of people are intimidated by gyms/fitness clubs. We second guess our abilities when someone brushes past us that has a better body or–even worse–a smile on his/her face AT THE GYM.

I’ve taken it upon myself to start being more healthy simply because I am getting older. I suppose that along with the fun being a 21 year old provides, I really need to start thinking about how good I want to feel when I’m 31. I have taken a pledge to no longer criticize myself if I am unable to do something on the first try. It’s all good; I’ll make it work one day.

So my advice coincides with Amy in that sense. Enjoy yourself a little more every day. Laugh at silly things and don’t be so hard on yourself. Surround yourself with people who uplift you. Keep that head up. You’ll master your current goal one day; it might not be today, next week or next year.

Trickery and Self-Esteem Issues: Thanks, Spice Girls

Who do young girls/women idolize these days? 

I genuinely don’t know. Sure, there are women that I would consider idols for various reasons. Usually, these reasons have nothing to do with physical attributes.

If I had to guess, I would say that the women most looked up to TODAY are of celebrity status. Their claim to fame is most likely due to music, movies, television, etc. We as a culture are bombarded daily with various media. Sure, DVR allows a viewer to skip through commercials and magazine readers can choose to toss this month’s edition of The Enquirer, but we are subconsciously listening, reading and viewing EVERYTHING. I have a feeling that the little people of this developed nation–children I mean–are being affected the most.

A prime example for any readers who were of pre-pubescent or pre-teen age when the Spice Girls became the global monopoly of girl groups can attest to how wild we were about these saucy British women. Therefore, I’m going to break down the group who coined (not really, but made it more popular than before) the term “Girl Power.”

Disclaimer: I’m being critical. There is a reason, though, because in retrospect I do recognize a few issues the group posed.

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Baby Spice: She kind of reinforces a few stigmas women face. She’s blonde, beautiful and sucks on a damn lollipop all day. She’s every young (and maybe even older) guy’s dream. She almost always got the guy.

In my fresh mind at age 10, the formula was an easy one:

Blonde Hair + Lollipop + Teddy Bears = Attractive Men. 

Sporty Spice: She was such a badass. Her part of the tour bus on the movie Spice World was full of workout equipment and sports drinks. Honestly, I don’t think she was ever dressed in anything other than athletic gear. She never got the guy…which reinforces a stigma that muscles make women less feminine. Dumb.

Scary Spice: I wonder how the people of the Saint Kitts and Nevisian ethnicity would feel about the woman of color being called “scary.” I have a feeling that the obnoxious hairstyles/over-the-top afro wasn’t Melanie Brown’s choice at first. Being famous comes with a price though. She will forever be the scary one. What stigma does this reinforce, ladies and gents? I have so much faith in you it deserves no explanation.

Posh Spice: Since she rarely talked, I don’t have much of an explanation. If she did speak, though, it was about her wardrobe. She usually got the guy too. I mean, come on. She’s married to David Beckham. I have yet another formula!

A Little Black Dress + High Cheekbones + Little To Say =

David Beckham (or another hot athlete)

And last but certainly not least is Ginger Spice: Whose idea was it to name the redhead Ginger? Even if it was her idea, shame on you Geri. Honestly, I don’t know what she looked like. I do, in fact, know what her boobs looked like. For some reason she (or her stylist) decided her boobs were more important than her face. In turn, they were elevated to new heights. I bet the pair is happy the fame is running out. Reinforced stigma? Big boobs can potentially make you famous.

My intention in this post is not to fire up the fans of this groundbreaking group around the world. These women could have chosen to represent themselves in these individual ways without any help from the outside world. I have a feeling (a hunch, if you will) that this was not the case.

I suppose what scares me the most is the fact that this is a pretty innocent example in comparison to some of the stars young girls are infatuated with today. What will be the final straw? How can we build self-esteem in these young girls without tearing down their idols?

There is no simple solution. Dammit.