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Raising Strong Girls

Tonight I went to watch Bonnie in her contemporary dance show and I was blown away by the creativity, strength and talent that the young people showed. I saw people with a range of disabilities dance their hearts out with so much joy and abundance. I witnessed young people of differing race, shape, gender and dance abilities work together to choreograph and perform with such passion, congratulating each other, lifting each other up. It was incredible.

I went home on such a high, my cup was filled. I sat down and found myself in a scroll hole on social media. What I saw made me feel sick. during my casual scroll 2 apps were advertised to me, several times. One promised to give me abs to die for just by photoshopping a bikini pic, and the other could give me the face of an angel. I downloaded the face app (purely for research of course) and took a bad selfie with several chins. I then spent ten minutes changing features on my face that I have always disliked. I made my nose smaller, my eyes wider, my lips poutier and erased my many chins. The result was terrifying. For the record I much prefer my normal face, and find face filters ridiculous. But here’s the crux I am a 30 year old women who is comfortable enough in my own skin to not worry about this stuff, but ram these apps and adverts into the faces of insecure teens and you have an anxiety disaster just waiting to happen. This coupled with those incredible insta-beauties, I look at those photos and know they have been heavily edited, but would my daughters? Would knowing that stop them feeling the need to compare themselves to that. The thought terrifies me and makes me sick to my stomach.

You see I want to raise strong girls, girls that know their worth, girls who don’t need to change who they are to feel deserving of love.

Another part of culture that really gets my goat is when women openly talk about dieting in front of children.

“So and So looks great now she’s doing the 5:2 diet and has lost 10lbs.”

“Have you seen Susan? She looks incredible she has only eaten cabbage for a week, she stinks, but looks amazing!”

“Urrrggghh have you seen my rolls, they’re disgusting, I can’t stand my stomach.”

I’m sure we’ve all participated/overheard these types of conversations. It is engrained in our culture, anything bigger than a size 8 and we should hate our bodies. We are regularly sold lotions and potions to cure us of these disgusting flaws, wrinkles and stretch marks. Drink this shake and you’ll look like me, eat this chemical laden bar of crap and you’ll be ‘beach body ready’.

Reading this through, can you see how damaging and disgusting flippant comments like this can be. How they can shape our daughters relationships with food and their bodies in the future. I’m so sick of it and I want better for not only my girls, but all of the women of the future.
We currently live in a country where 1.25million people suffer from an eating disorder* and social media related suicide numbers are on the rise, don’t you think it’s time we changed things for our children?
I try everyday to be a positive role model for my daughters. They see me eat a wide variety of food, I take pleasure in cooking and eating. They watch me eat a balanced diet, and scoff treats because I enjoy food. We exercise together when we’re in the mood and because we enjoy it, not to punish our bodies for eating one too many Jaffa cakes. They see me naked, they know about all the body parts, including the correct names. They know boobs are for feeding babies, and that my stretch marks are from carrying them (Bonnie actually asked once if that was where she’d scratched her way out, terrifying!). I, like all women, have moments where I hate my body but I never, ever show anything but gratitude to it in front of the girls. They see their daddy cuddling me and showing me affection, telling me I’m beautiful everyday. They know I shave, and think it’s stupid and I should just leave it as it takes up too much time! I read them books about incredible men and women, people who have pushed their minds and bodies to the limit. They once asked why I wear make up everyday. I was honest, I enjoy wearing it and I’m paranoid about my skin breakouts.

Ava told me “mummy that’s ridiculous, you shouldn’t be worried about people seeing your skin, its a part of you!”. Yasssss! That’s my girl, that’s the message right there.

I don’t want my girls, their friends and future potential life partners growing up in a virtual world where the pictures are so heavily edited that the bar of expectation is set unrealistically high. Where people watch so much porn they don’t realise what a loving relationship is. A world where more value is placed on looks than intellectual worth. A culture where Love Island gets higher viewing figures than Blue Planet.

I am going to show our girls the real world, where we are all flawed but still beautiful.

We often talk about our privilege, that just being born white and British gives them a huge head start in life. I want to teach them to use this privilege to do something good and kind in the world.

When in New Delhi we are meeting some women who work in the slums. Their job is to unpick clothes that have been thrown away by us westerners so they can be recycled. In Tiruchirappalli we are visiting a school for impoverished children, and in Goa and Sri Lanka we are staying in the homes of local families so we can see their way of life. We are going to work alongside some tea pickers who work 10 hours a day picking tea leaves for pittance so we can have our nice brew in the morning. Markets, temples, streets, jungles, cities and villages; cultures that will engage and educate their senses and shape their personalities.

These are just some of the visits we have arranged so far. These are the people and places I want my girls to learn from. This is the world I want my daughters to see. The world they will be shaped by.

I’ve had a few people raise their concerns about the safety of what we’re doing with the girls. I think that’s the problem. We are all too safe. Safe in our conditioned existence, doing things because we think it’s what we should be doing. Too afraid to question everything, and to shake things up. It has taken me 30 years to feel this confident, this sure of my life, sure of my decisions. I don’t want my girls to wait this long to feel confident in who they are.

So I urge you, not just for your daughters, but also your sons, fall in love with yourself. Lift yourself up, and from that newfound place of confidence, let them see you lifting up others. Compliment people, be grateful to your body, stop talking negative crap in front of them. Show them your flaws, show them you are real, and that real is beautiful. Respond to others negativity with only sunshine. Shake things up, step out of your comfort zone. Show them the real world, not just the one shown on screens. Be the adult that you want your children to emulate.

I’ll leave my little rant here on the internet with this little nugget of wisdom from Brooke Hampton:

“Confidence isn’t the ability to say everyone is going to like me. Confidence is having the courage and wisdom to say; I’m going to show up and be me and I don’t give a f**k if they like me or not!”
– Brooke Rampton
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