Perhaps you’ve noticed this month that we’re focusing on body image through The Inspiration Project in preparation for our collaborative Spirit & Place Festival program on Nov. 6. We’ve acknowledged the pressure girls feel to be perfect – especially regarding their bodies, asked a volunteer to share a take-away from her Redefining Beauty program, and read how a mother approaches the challenge of positive body image with her daughter. Each post references elements of the program, Redefining Beauty. After observing a couple sessions of the program myself this fall, I’d like to add another important piece to the conversation – peer support.
Even as an adult body image permeates the way we not only view ourselves, but also interact with others. As an adolescent girl, these interactions with peers are vital, whether we like it or not, to their understanding of self. In the Redefining Beauty programs I observed, the volunteer program facilitators addressed this challenge with a “Put-Up Party.”
“We all know what a put-down means,” said one volunteer. “What do you think a ‘put-up’ is?”
The girls thought for a split second then hands flew up. “A put-up is, like, something on the inside that you say to somebody,” said Amiah.
With a little prompting, the seven and eight year-old girls got a handle on put-ups and shared example put-ups with the group. Then the girls proceeded to have a “put-up party” where they wrote down one quality, preferably non-physical, that their peers possessed – “funny, nice, smile, feelings, nice friend” were a few I noticed.
Even though some put-ups made more sense than others, the sentiment was uplifting. The girls got to take their put-ups home, and I imagine a boost of self-esteem went with them.
I left the program thinking of the impact such a small set of words can have on some one’s confidence. I more easily remember put-downs, even back to elementary school, and especially ones regarding my outward appearance. Yet I also recall that when I felt confident about my abilities and strengths, it was easier to ignore those negative words.
Girls observe more than we realize and mimic behavior from the adults in their lives. So let’s not only show support to our peers with put-ups, but also set a positive example of peer relationships for girls. Because, as one of the volunteers said, “Life’s easier when you’re nice.”
Who are you going to give a put-up today?