Why We Need to Teach Our Children Body Positivity

Building children’s self-esteem

This week I have headed up a BoPo event for some young people. It was a HUGE learning curve for me, not only did I discover that I can actually get over my crippling fear of public speaking, but kids are so receptive to the truth. I revealed to these lovely young people, that from a little girl, I have had awful self esteem. I stood there in a hall full of teenagers and laid myself bare. I talked about how I wanted to be a magician’s assistant and how that a friend’s comment about me being too fat really resonated. To this day I can still picture the whole scenario. I talked about how it just might feel like a few words to them but how it can actually have a massive impact. At the end of this talk, the kids surprised me with a spontaneous round of applause. I was a little stunned, but proper chuffed.

During this week I ran art based self-esteem workshops. And again, here, I shared a little more of my story. This is what I told them:

“A few years ago, my self-esteem was at rock bottom and I went to see a lady to help me. She asked me to start doing affirmations in the mirror. Firstly I did not know really what it could do for me, secondly I was too embarrassed to talk to myself and thirdly, most importantly, I was struggling to look at myself in the mirror altogether. So together we worked out a different way, I made a piece of word art. I started with words I could handle, like “creative” then over the next few weeks I would add others I felt comfortable with. Later I would add what people had said to me, and generally they were the more challenging ones! – That I was “beautiful” or a “good singer”.

The young people listened to this intently, I mean they were slightly amused by the image of me trying to talk to myself in the mirror, but they were awesome. We played ‘compliments consequences’, where the students had to go round to everyone else’s sheets and write something positive about them – no “OKs” or repeated words. They then turned this into artwork and the responses were simply lovely.

In addition to this the students were playing ‘BoPo Bingo!’, where they had a series of body positive tasks. It created a really lovely buzz, especially on non-uniform day and I went above and beyond for the theme ‘Bright, Bold and Beautiful’. As the kids kept telling me how beautiful I looked, I’d say, “you can tick that off of your ‘BoPo Bingo’ card” as one of the tasks was to tell a member of staff something positive about themselves. They looked delighted at the thought of unconsciously completing a task and being recognised for it! The capacity for children to be awesome, is so much greater than their need to chastise. We just need to foster it.

I arranged a ‘Parent’s BoPo Summit’. The turn out wasn’t great but the quality of people there was amazing. These parents were keen to ensure their children are body confident. I told my story, and the little gasps of recognition when I told my story, told me that they understood. Alongside me, I had my ‘BoPo Partner’, Vicki. She told her story. Not only did she tell her story to the parents, but she told it to the girls when we did our ‘boobies talk’. To say I was proud of her was an understatement, as I type I’m welling up. She made a slide about her struggle with anorexia, and the struggle within about whether she was ready to share was apparent. Regardless of whether she actually went ahead and told her story, the fact she had even considered it was so fucking brave. I think I could say, for the both of us, it was actually an amazingly cathartic experience and gave the kids and parents context. And I love that woman! What a legend!

So the hugely important thing I’m trying to say is that our young people need to be taught body positivity from the get-go! This might be teaching some of you to suck eggs, but here’s my main BoPo tips to help our kids:

  1. Avoid buying magazines or watching programmes that engage in body shaming.
  2. When watching programmes where appearance is the main focus (*cough cough ‘Love Island ‘*) – talk to your young people about body image and superficiality.
  3. Avoid using the words like fat/thin/sexy/odd with qualifiers such as “too” “so” “awfully” etc. All of these words are valid descriptors, for example “I am a fat lady”, but please don’t come up and call me that, I’d probably get upset. Especially if there’s a “so” or “incredibly” in front of it.
  4. Avoid body shaming anyone else publicly or privately. Sometimes we’re not even aware of it. Especially when it comes to people’s clothing choices “Well, she’s definitely too fat for those shorts”. That’s a lady just living her best life in the summer.
  5. Remind our young people that if they decide to body shame, it says more about them, than the person they are shaming.
  6. Finally. HUGELY. Try not to project your own insecurities on to your young people. Avoid saying how “fat” you think you are or feel. Trust me, young people pick up on it. So bugger it…. Get your bikini on and jiggle about in front of everyone!

By the way, did I tell you…? You are fucking awesome and it’s “easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.” ❤❤❤

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