When I read the interview with Singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat and watched her new music video (video below) it brought me to the verge of tears. She was singing about and going through something I know my cheerleaders feel on a daily basis and something I had experienced in my life, especially last year as a professional cheerleader.
There is an intense pressure as a woman (and as a girl) to feel thin enough, pretty enough, and “polished” enough. To never leave the house without makeup or without perfect hair. As a professional cheerleader the pressure is incredibly intense. You are selling an image of beauty, poise, sexiness and above all perfection. Your nails, hair, teeth, skin color, weight, body type, makeup, and clothes must be impeccable on and off the field. You are a representative for a multi-billion dollar corporation and they take your image VERY seriously.
My parents raised me to be confident with who I am and taught me to place more value on the character and personality of myself and others than anything else. I’ve always been a happy, free, and confident person. Cheerleading was always a confidence builder throughout my high school and college career. The relationships I built, the opportunities I received, and the challenges I overcame were all stepping stones to help me become a stronger person.
Last year when I made my first professional team I was challenged to my core. I questioned if I was good enough all the time: if I would ever be in shape enough, if I had the right shade of blush, if my hair was curled enough, if my nails were the right shade of pink, if I talked to much or talked too little. Everything. I experienced an anxiety unparalleled to anything I had ever felt. Literally making myself sick.
In the end, I am incredibly grateful for my journey and the challenges I overcame to finish a life changing season. But it made me think of my cheerleaders and what they are experiencing on a daily basis. Even though it has been less than 10 years since I was in high school, things have CHANGED! Social media, hyper sexualization, bullying and a constant onslaught of unrealistic body images make social life and school a virtual war zone for students. I am a 20-something woman dealing with these very grown up challenges. But our youth are faced with the same challenges (or even more intense challenges) at a far younger age.
I’m so thankful someone in mainstream pop culture is finally telling our girls that they are good enough and I hope more follow. But what if that doesn’t happen? What will we do? How can we make sure girls grow up know they are born “good enough”?
I want to know what will you do to make sure your daughter knows. Share your suggestions in comments below and share this article with your friends, family and especially your daughter.
At More Than Cheer we help our cheerleaders fight low self esteem by:
1. Changing their language: Our cheerleader do not use the word “cant”. They know there is nothing they can not do, there are only things they have not learned to do yet.
2. Telling the journey of each athlete: When we first have boys and girls join our program they can get quickly frustrated when they don’t get every skill right away. We try to stop this before it starts by having other students share their journey and they challenge they overcame when they first started cheering.
3. Creating a “No-Shaming” zone: We never shame or embarrass our students when they make a mistake or haven’t yet mastered a skill. We always push them to do their best and help them recognize they will have to overcome their fears to reach their goals but we do this with encouragement, never shame.