Let’s take it back to the old school. In the late 70s and early 80s, there was a TV show called Solid Gold. I would watch the dancers in their gold leotards and try to move just like them. At four or five years old, I fancied myself to be a pretty fantastic dancer. My mom would get calls from the pre-school, “Um, Nichol is doing some very provocative dance moves,” to which my mom would say, “Oh yes, Solid Gold is her favorite show”. I had no self-consciousness, and my mom never shamed me. We could be in the middle of the dairy aisle at the grocery store and if I heard music overhead, it was my show. No space was too small to be a stage. I’m sure you’ve seen kids like this. The rhythm just overtakes them and they appear to have no regard for form, or for anyone watching. I was shopping the other day and there was a little girl like this in the shoe department at Nordstrom. I don’t remember what song was playing, but she was feelin’ it. She was there with her grandmother, who just smiled as this awesome little show-off twisted and turned all over the carpet and furniture. Laughing. My. Ass. Off. I was so tickled by her unabashed mood. She looked me dead in the eye and kept right on grooving.
No one had taught her yet that she should be embarrassed. No one had tainted that freedom. And why should they?“One of the most significant studies in girls and self-esteem, conducted in 1991 by the American Association of University Women, found that at age 9, a majority of girls were confident, assertive and felt positive about themselves. However, by the time they hit high school, fewer than a third of girls still felt that way. More than 20 years later, and studies still come to the same conclusion: Girls’ self-esteem “takes a nosedive” after age 9, according to a 2007 report from the American Psychological Association.”I’ve shared with you how much I idolized my mom’s model-like features and frame; well, the six-foot-three, basketball player genes from my biological father kicked in as I graduated to the teen years. Dance classes and sports had developed my strong frame, and my thighs and glutes took over. I was about thirteen when my ballet teacher said I was too curvy for ballet, and I should focus on hip hop instead. I went on to be a strong track athlete, a killer field hockey player, and a great cheerleader and hip hop dancer, but what she said made me conscious of my body in a way that I hadn’t considered.Today, it seems even more impossible for girls to measure up to the models they see on TV, and in movies and ads. And how can they? Most of the images and women they see have been doctored in some way. Many of my friends have apps on their phones that allow them to touch up their photos, and they insist on doing so before anything is posted or shared anywhere. As I’ve said before, with me, what you see is what you get. The pressure to be flawless and ageless is completely out of control in my book. We have GOT to get a hold of ourselves.The APA study also cited the sexualization of girls as a key contributor, causing girls to see their self-worth as synonymous with their sexual appeal. The result is that they can become passive, self-conscious, appearance-obsessed and, ultimately, unhappy with themselves.
I believe as women, we have a responsibility and a chance to really change the script here. We can help girls develop into strong, independent young women. Let’s raise them to believe in themselves and in their abilities, to take pride in their fortitude and tenacity, and never shy away from challenges. Teach them to create comparisons based on their achievements. Teach them that there is something to learn in everything. If they do stumble, teach them to look at how they can improve or do things differently. Teach them to step outside of their comfort zones. Point out positive female role models, and be a better woman for those who will follow you.
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