It seems shameful that a girl or young woman should feel consumed by the alleged cornerstones of physical beauty—perfect weight, perfect measurements, and perfect skin. All over the world, females fight for the right to learn, to walk and love freely, to have enough to eat, to cure abominable diseases and end wars for which they did not ask; yet, in North America, young women just fixate on the emotional and physical lint that collects in their navels. The media has completely disconnected the minds of our girls from reality, yet if advertisers, video, TV and movie producers were made to stop their scourge, capitalism as we know it would probably implode.
It is borne from our insecurities and it knows exactly which buttons to push to capture our attention.
If you are a mother, an aunt, a teacher, a friend to a young girl or woman, you possess the power to mentor, to help change their minds about the meaning of being beautiful, thus rescuing their potentials and redirecting them toward qualities that are worthy of cultivation.
We adult women need to be vigilantly mindful of the personal messages we give the girls in our purview. We need to stop talking about our muffin-tops and flabby thighs; we need to stop focusing on our wrinkles, tummy tucks, Botox treatments and breast enlargements. Instead, we should show our young women what we do to feel good and strong and useful, for it is these attributes that will truly make them feel as beautiful as they ought.
Talk to your girls about the exercise you do, not as a method of losing or maintaining your weight, but as a way of connecting with other like-minded souls, a way of becoming strong in your core so that nothing and no one can ever take you down. Talk about how exhausted but exhilarated you feel after a good run or work-out, how your muscles ache with learning, how you’re preparing your body to live your whole life to the fullest. So many young girls love sports but end up walking away out of frustration, fear of failure or fear of subjugating their femininity. Encouraging them to stay with their physical selves encourages community, good health and self-esteem.
Refuse to engage in gossip. Speaking cruelly about others is a prevalent issue amongst tweens and teenage girls these days, made worse by the advent of cyber-bullying. Our girls need to hear from us by NOT hearing our judgmental assessments of others—family members, so-called friends, people we see on the street. The old adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is excellent advice. More to the point, gossip is like eating candy. It is delicious when you have it, but before long, it leaves you feeling empty. It also leaves you feeling ugly.
Finally, we need to model global interest in our girls. We need to show them that real life exists around them, outside of them. People who are focused on their compassion and empathy for others are less apt to waste precious time and energy ruminating over personal short-comings. Talk to your girls about issues in the news and about how to help others who are truly suffering. Teach them that they can affect change by becoming involved and show them what that looks like. Making someone else’s life better will help your girls feel powerful and gorgeous.
The media is too huge a force to realistically be dismantled or changed in our lifetime, but human contact amongst adult women and girls can emphatically alter self-perceptions. It is we who should mentor the young females we know and love through what we say in front of them and by the individual strengths we demonstrate. Show them we are caring, versatile adult women. Our personal actions are worth more than any ad campaign. Our self-portraits are worth more than a thousand words or a catchy jingle.
When the girls in our lives are regularly exposed to female role models who conduct themselves with integrity, they are more likely to follow suit and to know beauty as a state to which they can always lay claim.