01 Mar Helping Young Girls with Insecurity Issues: Body Image, Sports and School
I started writing about the plight of young girls’ insecurities a year ago.
Wow, I’m such a slacker. But thanks to a dad of a young girl I coach, I was reminded how critical it is to start a conversation on this topic.
I’ll be honest: I began writing this post last summer as I was drunk on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland. And last I looked drunk writing can do a few things:
1.) Allow you to spit out an epic article that goes viral and makes you famous OR…
2.) Allow you to become the biggest a-hole, offend hundreds of people, and have an overflowing hate mail inbox.
Because I didn’t want to take the risk, I’m finally writing this sober.
Needless to say, it’s never easy to address an elephant in the room, sober or wasted. But I’ve always prided myself in speaking about things other people are afraid to discuss. Especially in the webspace, where I’m leaving my digital footprint for eternity. Clearly, I’ve never given many fucks.
All the sexual jokes I’ve made? They’re there forever. All the Tracy Anderson-is-the-devil comments I’ve said? They’re there forever. All the fitness celebrities jabs? They’re there forever. All the workout videos showing my jacked biceps? They’re there forever.
Same with this topic.
Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Here goes nothing.
Addressing Young Female Insecurities
In the past several years, there’s been a push for women to be more comfortable in their skin, to accept there bodies, and to show up as in their authenticity. Badass female trainers across the fitness industry have been a beacon of light for all women to train for strength and confidence, grow into their bodies, and love themselves 100%.
I’d be remiss not to mention how inspiring women like Jen Sinkler, Meghan Callaway, Neghar Fonooni, Sohee Lee, Jen Comas, Jill Coleman and Molly Galbraith have been for the female species. And how they can all take down North Korea in one blow.
However, there’s a huge elephant in the room that has not been talked about: young girls’ body image issues, including pre-adolescent and adolescent girls.
Why does this population need to be uplifted like their grown women counterparts?
Well, at a precarious age range when girls are new to navigating their place in the world, being inundated with mainstream media, not being sure what to believe, dealing with gossip, and being told what to look like, it’s not a surprise many girls are susceptible to insecurities.
Parents and sports coaches rarely address this topic, and some fail to approach it with elegance.
I’ve heard coaches berate their young female athletes about their bodies. I’ve heard strength coaches tell girls to lose weight. Or they’re too fat. I’ve heard my female athletes say carbs are bad. Or they hate their thighs touching. Or they need to get bigger boobs. Or have a six pack.
What’s worse, is I’ve seen coaches turn a cold shoulder when girls beat themselves up with insecure comments.
Expounding further, what I haven’t seen enough of is nutritional and performance education for such a vulnerable group. It’s our job as coaches and parents and teachers and trainers and role models to permeate positive messages onto our young female athletes.
So whoever is reading this – whether you’re an athlete, parent, coach, or random dude in the middle of Siberia – I hope these pointers resonate with you. I hope they light a fire under your butt to breathe life into the next generation of young female athletes.
1.) Comparison is a trap.
Want to feel flat, icky, and weak? Compare yourself to others.
If anything is going to steal your joy, it’s comparison. I’ve found that driving in your own lane makes you more productive and action oriented. You’re free from distractions and have the opportunity to #doyou. And young female athletes need to learn how to focus on their passions and talents.
Instead of trying to be someone else, they’re able to become the best versions of themselves. So encourage them to do that. “Doing you” should be a full-time job.
Because everyone else will always have something you want. Maybe that’s blonde hair, or longer legs, or straight hair, or a flat tummy. But what are you accomplishing for yourself by longing for what you don’t have?
It’s a losing game and a trap.
Unless you want to spend hours drawing a venn diagram like you did in first grade, why bother comparing yourself to another person? Because LOOK: we are all so biochemically and physiologically different that it is impossible constantly live in a relative world.
You can’t compare a blade of grass to a rose. You can’t compare an elephant to a peacock. You can’t compare a computer programmer to a personal trainer. You can’t compare Kate Upton to Mona Lisa. You can’t compare me to other fitness bloggers.
If I spent all my time seeing what other people wrote or what they have in their Facebook newsfeeds, I probably wouldn’t have over 200 blog posts written. And sure as hell no features in Women’s Health or Stack.com or MyFitnessPal.com.
I’m unique. You’re unique. Own it and take action and stay in your own lane.
2.) Focus on your strengths.
Everyone has flaws. And humans are sooooo funny because we focus on the bad more than the good. But what a difference it would make if we focused more on what we’re good at? Or our best features and traits?
Too often, we beat ourselves up over petty things that no one else notices BUT us. I promise you…NO ONE notices. Isn’t it rather selfish to think everyone is constantly paying attention to you?
And I know this is tough love, but have you ever pointed out a girl on the street and said, “OMG her thighs touch” or “OMG she has huge feet?” Methinks not. And no one is doing that to you either. Stop being so vain. No one cares about you as much as you think.
It may sound harsh but it’s also a huge freaking relief. So this bears repeating: no one is paying attention to you and it’s a waste of energy to focus on what’s bad about your body. Put yourself at peace and tune into what’s uniquely awesome about you.
Your thighs touch? Cool. That means you’re a strong female athlete who won’t get pushed off the ball.
Or your legs are too short? Cool. You’re more agile than your teammates.
Or your legs are too long? Cool. You have a higher stride length and can run fast.
Or your hips are too wide? Cool. You’re a girl who will turn into an amazing mother one day.
And these examples are just glossing over the tip of the iceberg. Focus on what’s right. Turn a self-proclaimed weakness into a super power. I promise the results are nothing short of amazing.
Inspiring girls to transcend their insecurities can be done through showing them the importance of strength training, taking risks, and getting out of their comfort zones.
Or another time, I had a middle school female athlete come into our facility to make up her lift, while there were 40 high school boys working out. Most girls would be intimidated and put their tail between their legs, but she walked around like she owned the damn place. Kind of like she was Beyonce shopping at a Walmart.
Or most of this past Winter, I’ve had a group of middle and high school girls going hard every Saturday morning to get strong as hell. They didn’t even care that they had to pull weighted sleds:
Again, this is just a casual Saturday for these girls. But the lesson learned: they focused on strength. And this could be physical, mental or emotional.
Life is too short to be a victim.
3.) The only constant is change.
What does this even mean?
That I’m a Buddha and enlightened, I know.
Maybe I’m not enlightened, but I know that change is what gives our lives texture. Change makes us malleable, adaptable, and able to build resiliency. If life was always smooth sailing, we would be pretty damn soft.
Everything is in constant oscillation: our bodies, our hormones, our fat storage, our sleep cycles, our stress levels, our school grades change, our team records, and our weight and physique.
And I know I say this alllllllll the time, but life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. And this is what we must teach young girls.
Adversity is inevitable. Losing a soccer game, missing a penalty kick, getting injured, losing your fitness level. But these are minor setbacks that make you stronger and more likely to kick booty as you evolve into a woman.
As an example, tearing my ACL and meniscus suuuckeddddddd, and I was out of soccer for a year. So binge watching Walking Dead and eating Ben and Jerry’s, it was. And since then, I’ve accepted it will be very hard for me to go back to the player that I was in college.
However, instead of succumbing to despair, my knee injury propelled me to get into the strength and conditioning field and to pass on knowledge on how to reduce chance of injury and how to become a strong beast for life. A negative has been turned into my career and livelihood. How awesome is that?
Here’s an awesome quote I live by: “victory is born of struggle and defeat.” – tattooed on my ribs. Sorry it wasn’t said by a famous philosopher, but the message is profound and real in the sense that even in moments of darkness, light shines through.
It’s crazy that these pointers are me just warming up, so expect a Part 2 to this post. Young girls need to be inspired – whether that is by example, compassion, or empathy – this group needs to be set up for a badass future.
Stay tuned for Part 2.