My sister recently posted this article to Facebook. It is a Huffington Post article titled: “How We’re Paying For Putting Ourselves Down (And Why We’ll Pay For You To Say Something Nice!)” (The Huffington Post link is not working, so the above link is from Stylelist). It is a great article. It really made me think. It discusses how women cut themselves down and say things like: “I feel so fat” (you know the list that goes on and on). If they say such things about themselves they have to put money in a jar. The article then suggests the money going to an organization that supports girls called: Girls, Inc. I am just as much to blame for saying such things to myself. I will need to start my own jar. Maybe I should add a jar for my bad language too.
It reminds me of something I think about often when I am around children, (little girls mostly but that does not mean it does not apply to little boys). You know when you first greet a little girl, and they are wearing the cutest dress? You say: “oh you look so cute” or “you are so pretty” or “what a pretty dress.” When you approach a little boy, do you comment on their appearance? I imagine it is much rarer. I read in a book a few months ago (and I wish I could remember which book) where the author discusses how she has changed her tune in talking to younger girls (more in the range of toddler age). The author gave an example of a time recently at a friend’s house where she was interacting with their young daughter. She was very careful not to comment on the girl’s clothes or appearance, but rather she got down on their level and asks them what they like to do. Saying something like: “Do you like to read?” The little girl got excited and answered in the affirmative. So this author said: “could you bring me your favorite book and read to me?” After spending some time together reading, the author said she acknowledged this young girl by saying what a great reader she was and discussing the ideas in the book. To her it felt like acknowledging this little girl for something she truly enjoyed, and not the dress she was wearing.
I have vowed to attempt that in my interactions with little ones (really it should be the same for boys too). However, I sometimes find it hard. Sometimes a little girl wants to talk to you about her dress, or the bows in her hair. She wants to show you her doll or how she knows how to brush the doll’s hair. So, in those cases I take the cues from the little girls, rather than putting the idea in their heads that what I notice and comment about them is their dress, or pretty curls. Although regardless of gender, I will call out when a child has a beautiful smile, because that is something we should never lose and I think acknowledging it matters.
My hope is that if we approach little girls differently, just maybe they will not need a “I Promise to Stop Saying Negative Things about my Body Jar.” Maybe they will be proud of their bodies, because we will raise them to focus on who they are and not by their looks, hair, and bodies.
Hopeful in Portland.