I’m a resolver. A lister. A planner. A dreamer. A must do better-er. And I am also a supporter of women, a cheerleader (in the theoretical sense. I tried out for cheerleading against my better judgment just once in 6th grade. I did it because I am a supporter of women—was so even then—and one of my good friends REALLY wanted to be a cheerleader but wouldn’t try out alone. So, I attended all the practices and then promptly ran into the judge’s table as I finished up my cartwheel, cartwheel, round-off during the first leg of the tryouts. Needless to say, I wasn’t invited back. My friend, however, made the team and was a cheerleader for the rest of her public education career.), an activist, and an advocate. So with the New Year upon us, I decided to take advantage of that desire in all of us to want to be better to throw out some resolutions for your consideration. Let’s vow to up our game in 2008—bringing out the best in each other while becoming our best selves.
Now, for the resolutions…
Ditch the fat chat. A study published in the journal Body Image showed that women echoed what they heard others say. When actresses, recruited by the researchers, said negative, neutral, or positive thing about their bodies to 88 unsuspecting women, the subjects tended to speak the same way the actresses did—even if they had just rated their body image as positive or high before the conversation. Sure, there are all sorts of reasons that a woman might do this—to build camaraderie, to be polite, etc—but because those statements might end up add to having a significant impact on one’s self perception, why not just stop? When a woman criticizes herself in front of you, don’t join in. Instead, celebrate what you love about her or tell her just how wrong she is. We do ourselves and others no good when we allow these critiques to carry on.
Love yourself. We too often invest in self-loathing—from our weight, to our hair, to our body shape, to our skin color. And the energy we put into all of this hating, tweaking, complaining, erasing just takes away from the energy we have to engage in our world. Luminous, shiny hair doesn’t make you a better mother. A tan does not make you a better teacher. These things don’t change the world. What you have in you—in your soul— is what has the makings of an everyday miracle. Want to feel better about yourself? Invest your time in doing esteemable acts rather than measuring your esteem by a beauty standard that exists on a slippery slope.
Don’t buy the hype. To change the nature of marketing, we have to resist buying into the bag of goods we are being sold. If we reward the products whose ads use fear or stereotypes or manipulation to appeal to us, then those marketers receive positive reinforcement. In order for the media to change, we have to resist the inappropriate messages. Once you quit taking in the verbal and visual clutter of what society says is beautiful, you can make room for what you think and feel is beautiful. Eventually, if enough of us do it, we change the media.
Don’t lose sleep over finding Mr. (or Mrs.) Right. Instead, spend time with yourself— dabble in the things that spark your curiosity, develop talents in the areas that interest you, pursue your dreams. Far too many women have lost themselves on the journey to coupledom. Lose yourself, instead, in the journey to yourself.
Support other women. All the challenges that women experience are trickled down (or up) to challenges that children, families, and communities face. Help the women of the world, and we help the world. Find a way locally and globally to help the women of the world.
Now, this list is just a start. What else can we vow to do in 2008 to collectvely champion body image, beauty perception, and identity? And what are you personally commiting to improving in or for yourself next year? Share your thoughts and let’s become a community that supports one another in our quests. Cheers!