I, like so many others, struggled with intense feelings of insecurity about my body. While I think that many of us harbor “bad body thoughts” for life, I’ve developed a set of positive body mantras that have helped me prioritize feeling good about myself.
- Everyone feels like the awkward tall kid at some point in their life: Well maybe not the tall kid, but maybe you were the kid with all of the freckles or the kid who was pigeon toed. I was the tall kid, towering over my classmates as a 5’3” fourth grader. As I interview volunteers who come to Girls Inc., many of them reflect on their insecurities as an adolescent and come to Girls Inc. to help girls who are experiencing similar insecurities. This “common ground” of remembering what it was like to be self conscious is an incredible asset—it makes our volunteers view the girls with a lens of compassion and also reflect on how they relate to other women.
- The only gold star you need is from yourself: Like many others, I am my own biggest critic. I recently read “The Happiness Project” which discusses a concept that really resonated with me: “The only gold star you need is from yourself.” Basically, if I’m happy with who I am, do those external negative body messages that I receive from others matter? No one really notices if I put on a few pounds or if my hair isn’t perfectly straight. If I feel energized and approach people in my life with kindness, that’s what will make a positive impact on others.
- Get outside of yourself!: Coaching swimming could have been the best thing I ever did for my self confidence. As a swim coach working with swimmers ages 5 – 18, I had to be energized, healthy, and enthusiastic. I also had to be in a Speedo all day. While I used to worry about whether my body was as thin as others, I soon learned that was a low priority compared to making sure my swimmers felt strong, confident, and happy. When I realized that a group of 8 and unders don’t care what Coach Kelly looks like in a swim suit, but they do care about whether or not I smile and am encouraging, my priorities changed. I soon realized that my passion was working with youth and that that made me far happier than whatever a scale read.
- If someone makes you feel bad about your body, respect yourself enough to let them go: I recently was in a Redefining Beauty session where one girl wasn’t talking because another girl made fun of her hair. The bullied 9 year-old and I had a chat about the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people. I told her that everyone carries their own struggles and insecurities. We talked about having compassion for her bully but also understanding why her bully’s negativity shouldn’t get her down. Life is too short to surround ourselves with people who only bring us down.
What do you say or do to appreciate your body? What positive body mantra would you recommend for girls?