I was always a good little girl. My mom describes an obedient child that always did her homework without being told, tried hard in school, and mostly never gave her any trouble. That is a mother’s interpretation of her child—her perfect child that is evidence in the divinity of true love.
There was no reality television or social media when I was a child to turn up some extra heat in the pressure cooker of growing up. There was no Disney Channel on a loop with glammed up tweens that walk around their houses wearing skinny jeans, perfect make up, and gorgeous tousled locks.
We played outside for hours until we were called for by our parents (literally; in my Brooklyn neighborhood, mothers were heard yelling out the window for their children). I’m not condemning Disney. My daughter watches the Disney channel, and I laugh out loud while watching episodes of Good Luck Charlie. There just has to be a limit or a balance in these incessant images of perfection.
While emphasis on beauty is certainly not a new focus in society, and the beauty industry is not in danger of collapse by any means; I’m starting to see a level of insecurity in my sweet 6-year-old, already. The cover of almost every woman’s magazine promises 2 things:
Weight Loss And Romance
Countless titles promise "the best sex ever" and encourage us to "watch the pounds melt away in 10 easy steps." Apparently, get thin first and then you’ll find out how to have the best sex ever. Heaven forbid we think about overweight people orgasming and having the best sex ever. As so many women collectively hold their breath, waiting for the tide to shift, we can, in fact, start with what we model for children.
While humanity has made astounding innovations and progress in science, medicine, and technology, women are still one group that is targeted in using truly damaging marketing methods. This not only induces low self-esteem, but values women mostly for their bodies rather than their contribution to the world. There’s a smoke screen that reinforces the idea that if we change ourselves (our appearance) we can attain happiness.
As an educator and a mother, I asked a few of the little females in my life if they like the way they look and why.
"Yes. I like my hair and my nails, but my handwriting is sloppy." ~ Gabriella, age 8
"I like the way I look. I like my clothes and my hair, but I want to look more like a princess." ~ Olivia, age 6
"I like the way I look, but I wish my eyes were blue. Blue eyes are nicer." ~ Sarah, age 11
There was always a "but" in their answers. It made me so incredibly sad. Even in adulthood, if a man is confident, he is strong. A woman is shamed if she is too confident. We are labeled "conceited" or "bitchy."
Beauty, According To The Media
Flash forward to the bulimic celebrity getting plastic surgery until the cat-like mask has taken shape and everyone says, "what did they do to themselves " or worse, the overweight celebrity—how they get ridiculed if they do not visually titillate us.
We judge ourselves and other women so harshly, rather than empowering each other.
Miley twerked, half- naked, at the MTV music awards to shed her Disney image. We slut-shamed her and said nothing about the 40-year-old man whom she gyrated against. He later tweeted that it was "dope." We wonder what went wrong. How did Hannah Montana turn into a tongue wielding twerker?
Where do those loose wires start to disconnect from their power source? How do we break down a model of self love, confidence, and radical self- acceptance? I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know that these industries deflate the spirit while pulling us away from our higher selves, our divine purpose, and our awareness of our own personal power.
Making Mindful Choices In What We Model
I have recently decided to become a certified yoga teacher for kids. Practicing yoga can help counter these self- limiting beliefs. It enables children to learn techniques for self-awareness, relaxation, and find an inner stillness that can combat life’s pressures. If started at an early age, yoga can promote self-esteem and a non-competitive form of body awareness and healthy body image. A yoga practice can foster compassion.
I teach in a public school, and with the new Common Core Standards, where children are now exposed to much more rigorous lessons that leave them feeling unsuccessful.
Since beginning my training, I have incorporated some simple breathing techniques that I’ve learned from yoga teacher training. This helps to calm their anxious minds and to bring awareness back to themselves. We then say, "Namaste. I feel good in every way. The goodness in me, sees the goodness in all of you." The children respond so positively to this. This allows for a deeper connection to themselves and others.
Children are such a light in this world, and yoga can bring that light to the surface. My hope is that if it becomes more common to practice yoga at an early age, the poses and physical movements can help introduce children to their own personal power, finding union with one another, and find peace within themselves.
It may help them to see that they are beautiful in their authenticity, and a gift to this world. No twerking necessary.