How To Be A Body Positive Role Model
Have you seen the YouTube video of little Jessica standing in front of the mirror, going through her daily affirmation?
“My whole house is great, I can do anything good! I like my school, I like my hair, I like my pajamas! I like anything! I can do everything better!” and with that, she jumps off the counter and runs down the passage.
And kind of sad that we never tend to speak to ourselves like that when we grow up (if ever).
It’s heart-warming to be taught by such a young one how to be positive about ourselves. It’s wonderful too, to know that this little girl’s parents got it right when it came to teaching her to be content with how she looks and what she has.
I have been thinking a lot about the role that women play in one another’s lives, particularly older women’s influence on girls. The following story is from a good friend of mine, Sam, who had a profound experience, which changed the way she thought about herself as a girl. All thanks to one lady, who took a few moments to guide her.
“I grew up with curly hair. I hated everything about my hair. Every morning whilst getting ready for school, I would struggle to brush it. My brush would get stuck in my curls and I would angrily rip it out and throw the brush on the floor. I was teased and called a bottle-brush.
I figured out a way to keep the frizz away and that was by plastering my hair to my scalp with gel! When I was a few years older, I started straightening my hair daily – anything to get rid of the curls. I look at old pictures today and cringe over how ridiculous I used to look. How uptight and intolerant I was when it came to my appearance.
People told me over and over that when I am an adult I would love my hair but I didn’t believe them. I cried to my mom that I would never get married if I had curly hair and that was because boys were the ones mostly teasing me! I believed that my curly hair would be the source of my future life of celibacy – I’d become a crazy cat lady at 21 and that would mark the end of my life.
But then, in my final year of high-school, I met a teacher who had stunning curls. One day she pulled me aside and taught me how to work my hair. She told me to stop brushing it and to start using mousse and recommended brands. We spoke about our similar pasts of being teased and ridiculed and she told me to not be robbed of another day when it comes to loving how unique my hair truly was. And she was right. Slowly, I stopped criticizing myself and began to embrace my unique beauty.
Women like Sam’s teacher can make a huge difference to young girls everywhere.
There are 2 things that I think we could all learn from this story:
- We all have the opportunity to provide a positive role model to women in our lives
- Sometimes all of us could use little guidance – it can go a long way
In today’s world there are not enough female role models sharing the kind of wisdom that can help women, of all ages. And if someone reaches out to help, we can become defensive and not listen to their advice anyway.
Why Is A Body Positive Mindset Important?
In the aggressive culture that we live in, we are taught that a woman’s priority is to look a certain way. Even though we know that magazines are filled with photo-shopped women, we still admire their flawless beauty and wish we could look like that. Standing apart as a body positive role model can bring hope to struggling girls who beat themselves down for not living up to those standards.
Harboring self-hatred can lead to all sorts of deeper complications. With young girls being taught that their worth comes from physical appearance, they may develop mental health problems and eating disorders later in life.
Without truly accepting that you and your body are wonderful, young girls, even adult women, will never be satisfied with their weight, hair, height, breast size and face. Many of us have experienced the let-down of striving to reach a goal weight for example, and if we do get there, we find that we are still not satisfied. We are the only ones that can stop this endless chase.
We need to teach our young women that when it comes to her body, worth does not come from a number.
One of the most fascinating stories I have heard is about an Australian woman named Taryn Brumfitt. In the video below she asked women on the street what they felt about their bodies. No surprise the kind of words that they used to describe themselves:
Taryn was about to go for plastic surgery to tighten up a few “flawed” areas when she suddenly considered the message she would be sending to her young daughter.
She chose to cancel her surgery and find a different solution. Still in the same position of self-hatred, she wanted a taste of the “perfect body” believing this would solve her problems. So she entered herself into a bodybuilding competition. She lost all that unwanted weight and essentially had the perfect body.
But she found that nothing had actually changed internally for her. Even though she had a perfect body, she was still not happy. She found that she was still insecure in certain areas and still finding fault with her body. This was something deeper.
After reaching her bodybuilding goal, she gave it up and put all her original weight back on finally feeling satisfied with her body. She uploaded before and after pictures, that being, before as a bodybuilder and after with a significant amount of weight on, and it went viral. No one could believe that she could possibly love her body after it being “perfect”.
Should You Be A Body Positive Role Model?
Taryn’s video is incredibly moving. It shows that we are not alone in feeling ‘not good enough’. Even in hating our bodies.
Changing our own mindsets is essential so that we can take the blinkers off and realize that we are all in this together. We can see each other’s beauty.
If we can be brave enough to be ourselves and love ourselves then we pave the way for other women to do the same. But it has to start somewhere.
Let it start with you!
How To Respond To A Friend Who ‘Hates’ Her Body
This works with any woman really. It could be your daughter, your mom, a lady in the changing room of a store. Think before you react to her criticism with a brush-off. Try these tips instead…..
- Find out why she feels that way.
- Let her talk freely and don’t be judgmental.
- Validate her feelings by telling her it’s ok to feel that way, and even share areas where you have similarly not liked aspects of your own body.
- Find out why she wishes she looked different. This uncovers the heart of what’s bothering her.
- Get her to name parts of her body that she does like so that you can focus on the good.
If you are with someone you know then put the spotlight on things that she’s good at. Is she good at sports? Is she a mother?
Remind her that the body can be used to do amazing things. Let her know that you think her body is great, but stay away from using words such as “beautiful” and “pretty” that place the focus back on appearance.
One of the reasons for the popularity of MyStyle Rules is the guidance that we provide when it comes to body shape, something that can be literally life changing. Dressing for your body type is one great way to boost confidence, and a gift to share with the important women in your life. If we all learned to be feel positive about our own selves, and shared this with the women around us, imagine what a difference that could make.
Someone once gracefully remarked that another woman’s beauty is not the absence of your own. Remember that!