My daughter had her first major dancing concert this week. She does highland dancing, but it’s not just the traditional highland flings and bagpipes. This concert included contemporary dance, hip-hop fused highland, and a very fun Celtic Bollywood Extravaganza, which my daughter was part of.
Now I realise highland dancing is a bit of an unusual choice, but there is a good reason behind it.
My Dad’s originally from Scotland, so that’s part of it, but the main issue for me was wanting to find a form of dancing that was active and fun, but also conducive to a healthy body image. You don’t have to be a stick insect to do highland. Too often you see little girls in skimpy outfits, plastered with makeup, doing really inappropriate moves to really inappropriate music.
It’s like they’re 6 going on 16.
I remember taking Caillie to a toddler dance class at the church around the corner and they were playing stuff like “I’m too sexy!” That didn’t last long! There’s a lot of reasearch now suggesting that little girls are growing up too fast, wanting to wear make-up, getting conerned about their appearance and body image, so I’m really grateful to have found a healthy, fun dance school for my girls, where the costumes aren’t too revealing and there are lots of positive role models among the teenagers.
Psychotherapist Collett Smart once told me that it was important for kids to have hobbies outside of school so they have a range of role models beyond just their school peers. I’m certainly seeing the wisdom in that as I see my daughter starting to look up to some of the older girls there. As a mother of girls, I’m also really aware that they take a lot of their cues from us. So we have to take a good hard look at ourselves. If we’re always dieting or trying to change ourselves then how can we tell our girls that they’re beautiful as they are? In a culture that’s becoming obsessed with physical perfection, how far is too far?
I’m okay with decorating, but not with trying to change how I’m made. That’s where I draw the line in the sand. So wearing nice clothes, jewellery, nailpolish, and a bit of make-up is just decorating, but doing things to try to change the way I am made is not okay. So for me, that rules out fake anything, crash dieting, botox, collagen injections, cosmetic surgery, anything in which we’re trying to alter our bodies or unrealistically reverse the ageing process, because that says we’re not good enough as we are. Exactly where we draw that line will be different for everyone, but for me it’s about accepting that we come in different shapes and sizes and that we don’t have to strive for physical perfection.
Social media has a lot to answer for in this area. I recently attended a talk by Justine Toh from the Centre for Public Christianity where she talked about how the i-generation is using social media to create their own image. Every time we post a glamorous selfie, or un-tag ourselves in an unflattering photo, we’re building this culture of perfection, which is causing our young girls to feel inadequate. (Obviously some people do need to look professional on facebook – I’m not saying we should all be trogs!) One time I got sick of all the glamorous profile pics you see on facebook, so I took a photo of myself with no make-up – I hadn’t even brushed my hair – it was just me how I actually look most of the time. Anyway my husband saw the photo on facebook, put a filter on it on his i-pad and emailed it to me, as a favour. And it did look better, but I was like “Noooo.” I deliberately wanted a photo that’s completely natural.
Let’s teach our girls how to deconstruct those enhanced images they see on the bus stop billboards and show our girls that we’re happy with ourselves, just as we are. Then maybe they’ll have a chance of being happy with themselves too.