A World Where Injustice is Entertainment

From age 1 to 5 we teach our kids not to call people names. To be nice. To share. And they do.

Until middle school.

Then all of a sudden they’re back to calling each other names. Being mean to each other. Refusing to share.

What happened?

Nowadays entertainment consists of hurting someone else either with names or by making them feel left out.

Popular YouTube videos center around this. Sitcoms and movies focus on this. Even cartoons!

When did it become acceptable to hurt one another let alone entertainment? Girls are already struggling with a deck stacked against them. The majority of kids in middle school are trying to figure out who they are. Now they have to deal with cruelty every time they turn around. In school, in their neighborhood, in social media, even amongst friends.

I’ve noticed lately that my daughter and her friends jokingly call each other names, insult each other, and put each other down. And then laugh about it. Laugh about it!

These girls struggle to find a place of belonging. To feel accepted and valued. And here they are adding to their struggle!

All of us want to feel valued and worthwhile. We struggle with this. Everywhere we turn we’re faced with comparisons. Marketing, media and society itself encourage this. We don’t need to add to it!

Words go deep. Whether or not we want to admit it or acknowledge it, words hurt.

There is enough darkness in this world. Our friendships should be a place where we can always find light.

Friends are confidants. People we can turn to in times of need. People who make us feel better. A friend should lift you up, encourage you, inspire you. Not rip you apart and tear you down.

I pulled my daughter and her friend aside and asked why they thought it was funny to insult each other. When did it become entertaining to tear each other down? I pointed out that there had been many days that each had gone home upset because someone had teased her or picked on her. And here they were doing the same thing to each other.

That got them thinking.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

So what do we do?

Scores of self-help books, self-improvement blogs, articles, and podcasts teach the simple trick to pay attention to the words you choose and replace the negative self talk with positive self talk.

We need to do the same in our interactions with others.

We need to catch ourselves when we say something negative to another person whether it’s a friend, a stranger, or a coworker. Replace it with something positive. Let’s be the person driving out the darkness with light. Let’s be the person that causes others to stop and say in awe, “Wow. You have a really positive disposition.”

I have always encouraged my daughter to be a positive influence. To pave the way to a better life by her own behavior. There are times when she takes a stand and her friends pushback. But in the end they respect her strength, courage, and perseverance to go against the norm. It gives them courage to follow her lead.

Both of my kids know that I expect them to lift people up. To make them feel valued. To have that person leave the interaction feeling better than when they arrived. I too follow this expectation. I’m not always successful. But when I’m not, I own it and try again.

I know I’m asking a lot of her at age 12. Especially now faced with cliques, peer pressure, and the struggles of discovering her true self. But I know she can handle it. How?

Because her actions over the years have proven it.

I was listening to Annie F. Downs on Jen Hatmaker’s podcast the other day and she was relating the game of Chutes and Ladders to life.  Pure randomness determines whether you climb up the ladder or slide down a chute. Annie mentioned that we often feel like this in real life. We see someone else getting ladder after ladder while we keep sliding down the chute.

This is our perception.

The reality is we are each playing a game of solitaire with our own deck of cards. Another person’s move on her deck has absolutely no effect on mine. Which means we don’t have to compete with each other as if there were hardly enough cards to go around. Instead we can help and encourage each other.

So let’s do just that! Let’s celebrate each other’s successes! Let’s share tips and tricks with each other to have more successes!

As women, let’s be a tribe that encourages each other, lifts each other up, and gives each other the power and permission to succeed. Get rid of the drama. Let’s be there for each other instead of against each other.

Let’s teach our kids to do the same.

How do we do that? We start with ourselves. By pointing out the positive in other women and other girls.

By stop comparing ourselves to those around us.

Encourage collaboration. Celebrate successes. And encourage many more.

Let’s leave people better than we found them.

The Secret to being Beautiful

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

“Mirror, Mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?”

Not me. Ever. So I’ve believed most of my life.

Growing up I was not considered pretty. I had a bad perm and acne. I also had extra weight on me. I was teased and rarely dated throughout high school and college. I grew up thinking I was ugly. I still struggle with thinking I’m ugly.

Until my daughter came along.

She is a beautiful girl. Often I wish I had her beauty.

Ironic, huh?

I have no problem seeing her beauty, yet struggle to see my own.

But how can I not? Everywhere I turn I see thin, beautiful females. Of all ages! On the covers of magazines. TV. In movies. On cartoons even!

Guys on the other hand are shown as fit or having a beer belly. They have a full head of hair or are balding or have a receding hairline. Doesn’t matter; all are acceptable. Show a size 14 woman and she’s labeled “large”. Show a woman with well-defined muscles and she’s “too muscular”.

As females we are surrounded by so many things that push us to be thin and beautiful. Diet products, exercise programs, beauty products galore!

I have to constantly try to avoid these traps from deteriorating my view of myself. Many times I fail. Now I also have to compete with it as I try to raise my daughter to have a healthy body image.

To counter this when she was little I was careful with the words I chose. I exercised not to lose weight, but to get stronger. I tried to avoid mentioning the number of pounds lost or that I wanted to get skinny. Foods I chose to eat were not to lose weight but to be healthy to give my body the nutrients it needs.

Yet I still failed.

My daughter has always been fit and strong. Physically and mentally. She is active and chooses healthy food on her own without fail.

Yet, at age 10, she asked me if I thought she was fat. My heart broke.

Now I’m not totally fit; I have a bit of cushion on me. I like my hot cheetos and chocolate. So I asked her, “Do you think I’m fat?”

Her eyes bugged out. “No!” She declared shocked I would ask such a thing.

“Then why do you think you’re fat?”

“Good point,” she responded a bit humbled.

Fast forward two years. The conversation finds its way back to us.

The other day she asks me, “Mom, do you think I’m fat?”

Surprised I exclaimed, “Why would you think that?”

“Well look,” she grabbed her stomach and pulled at the skin and then jiggled her thigh, “There’s fat.” Oh boy.

My now 12 year old daughter has biceps that could crush a can and quads and hamstrings that ooze pure strength and speed.

“Honey, it’s healthy to have some “fat” on your body. If you didn’t you would literally just be skin and bones. You’d be sick and frail. Not to mention fat also protects your organs.”

“Really?” She was completely surprised by this.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder

Let’s face it. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Which means there’s no constant. No similar form of measurement. To the fashion industry beauty is a size 0. How is that even a size? To a child it’s their mother, whatever shape or size she may be.

So what do we do? How do I help my daughter strengthen her self-image?

I strengthen my own self-image

Words are powerful and make an impression on one’s heart. We need to consciously create more impressions of love to bring light to ourselves and our precious girls and less darkness.

I look at how I treat myself and try to be more conscious about how I talk about myself and my image. Both in the presence of my kids and when I think they’re not listening. Trust me. They’re listening.

I talk more about being healthy. Longevity of life and what that means. I explain that what we do as kids to our bodies catches up to us when we get old. I stress that making healthy choices as a kid makes it so much easier to do so as an adult. When I turn down dessert I explain it’s not because I don’t want to get fat. It’s because I don’t have the opportunity to use up the energy like they do. At 41 I don’t need as much food as they might at 8 and 12 to keep going through the day.

I use close family members with health issues as examples of what we don’t want to do. Their health issues also serve as examples that our choices in our younger years impacts our older years. I ignore the “size” on clothing and go off whether or not it fits and is flattering.

It’s too easy to become immune to negative images and words. I’m guilty of it. So many times I think what can I do? I’m just one person fighting against sophisticated marketing schemes. What impact can I possibly have?

So here’s my crazy idea. I want to start a ripple effect.

I start by checking my own behavior. I am a firm believer that how you behave is what formulates people’s opinion of you. So I try to be thoughtful in the words I choose to describe myself. I aim for balance in all things, food included. And when my children call me out, which they never hesitate in doing, I accept it with grace and take steps to improve.

I help my daughter to view her body more positively, then hopefully she’ll pass it on to her friends. I point out the marketing schemes, biases, and double standards. I ask questions to get my kids thinking.

I catch and point out negative self talk. They now do the same to me. They’ll do the same to others. And in turn others might do the same in their other social circles.

Suddenly a ripple effect just became a wave.

And soon the waves start rolling in. Pounding the surf. Pounding against the marketing lies.

So have a conversation. Ask questions. Point things out. Challenge them. Challenge their views. Drops of water in a bucket quickly become a bucket full of water.

I have a confession.

I still have trouble seeing myself as beautiful. Thought processes are hard to change. But I am now comfortable in my own skin. And that is a beautiful thing.