I grew up believing I could never be physically strong.
I first felt that way during my first school field trip. It was an event I looked forward to since I first entered school. I heard endless stories from my older brother about how leaving school for the day was exciting and full of adventure.
I remember hearing my teachers go over the rules:
“Stand in line, be polite, and wait your turn for each activity. Lastly, there are plenty of activities for the girls inside.”
We were at the local children’s museum “activity day.”
Outside, there were sports, races, and physical activities.
Inside, the museum had set up an art station and a cooking station.
At the time, I didn’t understand the weight of my teacher’s statement. I spent the first few hours of the day playing outside, but eventually joined most of my friends inside. The boys and the girls naturally split up because of these words, and the impact of that statement never went away.
There were several other moments growing up where I felt this same sense of insecurity. I spent several of my recesses watching the boys in my class play sports instead of participating myself. I never truly felt strong enough or confident enough in my physical abilities to participate.
Growing up, while my brothers were gifted balls to play catch, I was gifted dolls and cooking sets. I was quickly socialized to believe that women weren’t meant to athletes.
Dove recently released the following video all about the story told around women athlete’s:
We need to change the conversation around women’s bodies starting at childhood.
Instead of teaching me to play inside, I should have been told that I was strong and capable. I should have been taught to run and laugh and be a kid. Most of all, I should have been taught that my gender didn’t define my physical or mental strength.
Don’t get me wrong- I had a great childhood with amazing memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I was fortunate enough to grow up with siblings and privileged to attend a middle school and high school that did offer me wonderful athletic programs if I chose to participate.
However, I want to focus on the larger conversation around women’s bodies. There should never be a reason to tear women down, or make them feel like they are not strong. It is important to be careful about the messages that are being sent to young girls through individual actions, schools, and the media. It is also important to have a conversation about the messages being sent.
I have always found it interesting how picking ourselves and others a part has become common, but talking about self-love is often considered a taboo. We need to shift the conversation and focus on all of the things that make women powerful, physically and mentally. Over the years, I have developed I strong sense of self-love and I now hope to spread that to the young women around me.