When I was in fifth grade, I remember walking home from school. Some girls hid out in the bushes and when I was a good 1/4 mile from my house, they ambushed me. I used to wear heavy knee socks to cover what I thought were “too skinny” legs. I was kidded a lot for being really thin. I remember the words “chicken neck” and “chicken legs” being tossed in my direction on a number of occasions.
They pulled off my shoes and took my socks. Somehow they had honed in on my biggest insecurity and went straight to the quickest way to humiliate me. I put my shoes back on and walked home in tears.
For the past sixteen years, with my work in Girls on the Run, I have lived in a world where girls are kind to one another. We just don’t treat each other that way. It’s as if the world Girls on the Run creates is safe, open and nurturing. Girls here are free to share their vulnerabilities. Rather than covering up their fears around being seen as too “skinny” or too “fat” or “not good enough” we talk about those things and know that we are safe to be THAT vulnerable with each other.
When I started Girls on the Run, so much of what I’m aware we do, wasn’t as obvious to me then. I just knew that I wanted to create a space where girls could be themselves…where they could unite to change the world for the better in their own way. They tap into their authentic power and then do something with it! Without all the distractions of being mean, comparing their looks to another, bullying, scapegoating and gossiping, they are able to really come together and do some work that lifts each other up. The final third of the curriculum the girls have dropped all those personal insecurities, as well as the energy they may have once put into defending those insecurities (by putting others down) and create a community impact project.
These projects have been powerful. A perfect example of this is demonstrated in this article about our Girls on the Run of St. Louis chapter’s projects. Seriously…the impact these young girls are having will blow you away. http://www.girlsontherunstlouis.org/our-program/community-service-projects/
My recent entry into the world of cosmetics (or lack of them) has re-launched me into a world I had almost lost touch with. I admit, I may have been living in somewhat of a “bubble” over here in Girls on the Run-land.
You wouldn’t believe the number of wounded women who have written about how the Naked Face Project is revealing so much about their own self-worth…how something as seemingly simple as going without makeup can push wide the door to self-exploration and a new-found understanding of what it feels like to be insecure. I’m not suggesting that we want to feel insecure, but I am suggesting that if we are using something to mask that insecurity…it is sure to come out in other ways too…perhaps in being judgmental of others, gossiping or just being downright mean…not just of others by the way…but ourselves too!
I’ve been all of those. I recall not too long ago, I made a disparaging comment about a woman’s appearance and my daughter…yes my 13 year old daughter…was quick to point out that what I said was not very nice and as a matter of fact, not “Girls on the Run-like-ish” at all.
She was right.
I wonder if we aren’t onto something. Can you imagine what might possibly happen if women…girls…were able to live deeply into their self worth? To live over here in Girls on the Run-land where time spent judging, comparing and gossiping simply lost its power because we had tapped into a richer meaning of power? I wonder what would happen if we removed the superlatives from the beauty conversation, (most beautiful, more beautiful, less beautiful). Might the judgment, gossip, scapegoating simply disappear? The photos of cellulite-dimpled legs would simply drift off the pages of magazines, Demi’s demise would not make front page news, reality shows that spend most of their time showing cat fights between women would simply go by the wayside.
Goodness! What might fill the pages instead? I can only dream!
I have noticed that since I started this whole thing, I am far less judgmental of other women. I’ve always tried to be open and authentic with all I meet, but the truth is, I am human and it is not perfection I am after, but a willingness to learn, grow and evolve into a space of non-judgment. I’m beginning to see this project as a tool to get me there. To see with new eyes, how I’ve hidden behind my own insecurities. I’m beginning to see that when I release those, I can see other women for who they are, rather than trying on some level to compare my worth to theirs…my beauty to theirs.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we were able to do that on some massive scale? I wonder what would happen if we really could get enough women and girls to see their own worth as something much richer and more meaningful than something based on their appearance. We might actually be able to do something with all that power. Wow. Kind of scary…and invigorating all at once.
This song by Superchick pretty much says it all.