A seemingly harmless question from my four year old daughter immediately had me thrown off.
"We jump up and down because it is fun, and because we like to move our bodies." Was my fast reply.
Without thinking I could have mistakenly said, "yes, it is!" As most parents' first instinct is to praise their children for making a correct observation. Although, I did not really see this as correct. I see it as part of a bigger issue that is rampant with young girls. Even grown women.
I became a personal trainer because of how movement, training, and the confidence it has brought me has changed my life. As a child I would count the minutes in school as they seemed to drag by. All the sitting literally left me bored to tears. I sometimes wonder how my life and the things I would have accomplished could be different if I had not been made to "learn" in a way that hindered my learning capabilities seemingly permanently. To this day, I despise sitting. While writing this, my mind is engaged, but by the end, my body is antsy. I thought that helping other women see that movement and the strength and confidence derived from it could change their lives on some level as well.
The issues young women and girls face today run much deeper than gaining fitness or loosing a few pounds. I have met women who are in the gym only because their tween or teenage daughter is depressed, lacking motivation and self worth. They want to be a role model for them. I have met young girls who dedicate the time to come to the gym, but their lack of self worth and therefore confidence hinders their progress. Even if physical pounds or inches are lost, the emotional baggage still weighs them down. Some have faced cancer diagnoses, or invasive surgeries. How about the all too common scenario of the woman who has grown children, or a thriving career, but knows that she needs to do something for herself. She not only has to face the challenges of creating a new habit, being able to put herself first and the physical objections her body will give her; but the hardest part of all will be deciding and believing that she is worthy of what she is trying to do for herself. If a young girl does not feel like she is worthy and deserving of good things, that feeling of despair and lack will be carried with her throughout everything life throws at her. Then that young girl may have children. Guess what the children learn. You cannot teach what you do not know.
The dialogue we use to describe our actions, reasons and motivations behind looking after ourselves needs to change. Rather than speak about "exercise" around children, or that part of looking after ourselves is to "exercise" our bodies, we need to talk about the things we love to do, and how they make us feel good. Children are not born to "hate" movement. Have you ever watched the doors of a school when the recess bell goes off, or it's time to go home? The doors FLY open. It is as if an explosion occurs, and it is all the energy and excitement of being free and able to move. Children need to move. Instead of speaking about a "diet", let's talk about fueling our bodies. If children are offered real food to eat, they will eat real food.
Clearly the issue is not about exercise, weight, diets, calories, fat, skinny or otherwise. The issue is worth. It is the lack of confidence, self love and strength that children are learning because that's what they have absorbed from their environment, or been told. This is a massive loss in a woman's life. When a mother does not have it, or is not actively trying to build it, her daughter will have a hard time learning it. The variables and circumstances that leave women feeling this way are in abundance. They can be culturally or socioeconomically rooted. Or in many cases, learned in their immediate environment. I do not have all the answers, but I can do my best with what I know; with my children and the women I meet.
This is a massive issue that will continue to plague women everywhere. I work very hard to make a conscious choice every morning to choose my words with integrity around my children. I choose to embrace this daily rather than a traditional "career" because parenting is what matters most to me. That's not to say that working mothers do not think their children are important. And I know some women can handle it all, I simply cannot. So I focus on the few things that I do. I am far from perfect, and I make sure to apologise to them when I make a mistake. If I was to do only one thing really well in my entire life, it would be to raise two good people. Who love themselves, look after themselves, are kind to others, display empathy and know they are worthy of and deserve good things. This starts with me. They touch on it in schools, but what children live at home ultimately becomes their lives.
I hope to somehow inspire mothers and young girls to value themselves. I am not yet sure how I am going to do this. Bandaid solutions do not work for me. Fitness and wellness is one avenue, but may not be they key for all. For now, I will do what I can with what I know. Continue to learn and grow. But being able to guide my children in the best direction for them is my main goal. Always.