Every day I work diligently to guide my daughter, all her friends, and my nieces and nephews to understand how to eat and exercise so as to have healthy bodies, and more importantly, to accept (and appreciate) the bodies they have. But lately more and more I hear about the increase of cyber bulling, text bullying, and body shaming that is running rampant in many schools and it really riles me up.
Girls of all shapes and sizes are ridiculed and taunted, whether they’re over-fat, over-thin, too tall, have acne, are shy, have large breasts, are smart, you name it, they’re made to feel inferior, shameful or inadequate. Even when their bodies offer nothing to be attacked, bullying tactics often target girls (and boys) who are sweet natured and “considerate” personalities – the back-biting cliques that have shunned them label them “nice kids” as if it’s distasteful.
Recently one of my nieces suffered from bullying at school from one of her supposed friends for standing up to her for attacking other friends. Another daughter I know, was picked on for being over-fat since she was three, and it got to the point that by high school she wanted to drop out because she felt so isolated and alone. Another girl I know was labeled a Lesbian when she stood up to lies and rumors that she was easy with boys. “Oh make up your mind you little twits,” I wanted to scream!
Now this subject is not new and my goal today is not to stand on a soapbox and scream we must stamp out bullying in school and on the internet although clearly WE MUST! But today my goal is to offer a concept that has the potential to reduce some of these malicious posts, emails, and texts, and get these kids to realize once and for all that they’re all the same!
It’s simple, let’s get these kids off their electronics and work their butts off. They say “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” and clearly truth to this concept – when kids enjoy the safety and anonymity of communicating via technology combined with too much free time – trouble ensues. It’s just too easy to be mean and feel free from repercussions. Plus, somewhere along the way humans in the awkward teen years have developed a need to put others down to make our own feelings of out-of-placeness more palatable. Instead of seeking positive reinforcement, we negatively lash out at others which makes us feel bigger, better, smarter, prettier, etc. Kids have not cornered the market in this — just look at most offices and you’ll find a scattering of immature adults (and women with low self-esteem) doing the same thing to co-workers.
So I say let’s take all these middle-schoolers and high-schoolers and give them one hour a day of intense boot camp-style fitness. Put them together in clusters of sizes, personalities, colors, and ages and push them to work past their insecurities and force them to work together for a common goal as well.
A myriad of positive results would ensue: fat-loss, energy boost, mood improvement, emotional barriers cleared, and, if done right, force camaraderie across clique lines through shared hardship.
It may sound idealistic but I dare say we have nothing to lose in trying. It works for soldiers, it works when people rally to a shared cause, and it’ll work with kids, which in turn might make a future generation stop this divisiveness.
I’ll be happy to create and present this boot camp to any parents and schools who are interested. Meanwhile, I’ll continue my quest to teach girls to use their voices, and love their bodies!
I have been preparing my 9 year old daughter for several years now for one of the less favorable rites of passage that elementary girls encounter as they grow towards teen years … that of mean girls. Sadly the inherent competitiveness of females towards each other starts this early and I have recently realized that for some, the feelings of petty jealousy do not stop at any age.
I see signs of this girl vs. girl competitiveness from the playground to the workforce and at parties and social gatherings. It starts with the physical assessment – are they prettier than me, is their body in better shape, are they dressed too provocatively? Then it progresses into a fevered quest to find out some personal information that will prove their life is not better than yours, or that they are NOT as good as you – commonly known as gossip. Lastly communication breaks down into a series of anecdotal recounts of one’s life to one up the other – often using voice inflections heavy with condescension and superiority.
I watch this in action frequently at the gym and restaurants. A 20-something “hottie” will saunter past a group of over-weight “mom” types. First come the glares, then the whispers, and finally loud encouragement from the “pack” that they’re each doing great. Of course, this dynamic happens in the reverse too. Often it’s the heavier girl at a nightclub who is subjected to a gaggle of anorexic Barbies walking past with their noses in the air, and their I’m so pretty hair flips. (Yes I’m generalizing and stereotyping, but I’ve seen it happen repeatedly enough to use it here.)
This constant competition between women has saddened me for years. I get that it feels like we’re all in competition for the few good men, but we’re really not. Men have just as much at stake when searching for true love, and they receive just as much rejection as we do. But the difference is that men (and boys) don’t seek to tear each other down the same way women (and girls) do.
The feelings of jealousy and inadequacy that you feel when you see someone you think is better looking or happier than you is not their fault. You should all know by now that the grass is NOT always greener on the other side. That “beautiful” person may in fact be miserable on the inside, or maybe battled cancer, or was abused by someone. Your life is your life – your body is your body. It’s up to you to make your life and body be the most it can be and then be happy (and satisfied) with it all. When you’re not up to snuff – fix it – don’t make yourself feel better by enjoying the knowledge that someone else isn’t perfect too. Bringing someone down doesn’t lift you up. These are the lessons I’m sharing with my daughter.
I have more than once met women who were absolutely beautiful on the outside only to find that their insides were shallow or mean, and that their lives were not as envious as I had thought. But this knowledge never made me feel better – it made me sad that someone with such gifts wasn’t all that I had admired initially. It made me strive even harder to be happy with what and who I am and to appreciate all that I have, and go after all that I want.
Women we shouldn’t compete – we should complement each other. My many girlfriends and I do just that. If you are missing this kind of support in your life, perhaps it’s time you got better friends – or became a better friend yourself.