After graduating college with a BFA in Theater, I found my career passion as a teaching artist at various dance studios around New York City. I was a great teacher, extremely passionate about the power of a child’s imagination and self-expression. I knew that exploring these topics built confidence and made children feel like they could be anything in the world.
One of the studios where I interviewed was out in Jersey City. The process went great and afterward the owner sat me down to discuss. This is what she said ...
“Kelly, your credentials are amazing, and your personality is awesome. But what took me by surprise when you first walked in is that your body doesn't match your credentials. As a dance teacher, I don’t feel you would be a good role model for young girls. I don’t want them to think it’s acceptable to eat ice cream and potato chips all the time.”
Yes, she really told me that. Not only did she make immediate assumptions on my relationship to food, but also believed that the way my body looked (a size 10 or 12) overshadowed the positive impact I could make in her student’s lives.
I left the interview feeling devastated. I went home and cried to my mom.
Now, five years later, little does this woman know that my whole life purpose and mission is dedicated to helping women of all ages,
celebrate the skin they are in. Not only am I a role model, but I have a whole team of role models joining me.
Together we're paving the way to set a positive example for young women. Show them what it looks like take ownership of their body and how to feel happy, healthy, confident and energetic in the skin they are in.
The great news is, we can all become body positive role models for young women. Here's how:
1. Own your beauty, and stop the negative self-talk.
Whether you are an aunt, cousin, mom, babysitter, teacher (etcetera) to a young women, the way you perceive yourself, and talk about yourself, makes a huge impact. If you feel beautiful, then so will she.
The equation is simple ... Girls learn how to feel about themselves by who they watch growing up. Think about it. If little Suzy grows up hearing, “Doesn’t mommy look beautiful in this dress?” instead of “ Uh, mommy looks so fat in this dress," she will grow up having been taught to feel beautiful in front of the mirror.
2. Stop demonizing food.
The best way to show a young woman how to have a healthy relationship with food is to heal your own. Let’s let go of the food guilt. No more, “I can’t believe I ate that,” and/or other shaming statements.
Food is nourishment. The body can’t survive without it, and it’s not the devil. Learning what foods work well for your body is key. The peace you have with food will teach her what it means to nourish her own self. We are all entitled to the occasional chocolate chip cookie without feeling like we committed a horrific crime.
3. Show her what STRONG looks like.
Whatever physical activity makes you feel like a badass, bring her along and show her what strong looks like for you. It’s not about driving yourself mad at the gym to work of the chocolate chip cookie mentioned above. Instead, it’s about feeling empowered in your body. Show her what that power looks like.
4. Explain that numbers are just numbers.
2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,18,20,22 … 125, 150, 175, 200 these are all just numbers.
Before even setting eyes on a clothing rack or setting foot on a scale, explain to the young woman in your life that the number on the itchy tag or on the plastic box is simply a number. It does not define her worth, attractiveness, or show the incredible person she is. It is simply a tool to help her find a pair of jeans that feel best and for a doctor to keep track on her growth.
5. Compliment other women.
Recognize and highlight the beauty all around you, and don't just focus on physical/superficial forms of beauty. Sure, you can compliment a woman by saying "Isn't she beautiful?" But you can also see how kindness, generosity, intelligence and more create an even more alluring quality. Try saying something like, “Wow, she was so kind, doesn’t that make her stunning?”
This is a great way to show that women are each other’s friends. We don’t have to be constantly comparing ourselves; instead, we can lift each other up. Hopefully the more we set this example, the less “mean girls” there will be in high school hallways.
6. Be brave, and take risks.
Let her watch you follow your own wildest dreams even if they may scare you. Teach her not to fear failure or success, as they will both teach her valuable life lessons. By tackling the things that scare you most, you are inviting her to watch you be brave. And that will create a whole new generation of women who grow up believing “I can do it!"
So to the woman who told me I wasn’t a good role model for young women: thanks for providing me the fire to prove how much I really am.
I would love to know your thoughts on the topic … what makes you a great role model for young women?
Want to bring the Movement to your school, girl-scout troop or organization? Contact Kelly at Kelly@shineonwithkelly.com to book a "Celebrate YOUR Shine!" workshop or assembly.
Photo courtesy of the author