Every day I ask my daughter some version of “what happened at school today”. This week? Sweet creamery butter, it was about math class. My nerdy heart soared. There were kids moving between advanced and regular math classes and it was A. Big. Deal. After watching inane snapchats by the thousands, it’s easy to discount the general level of intelligence and engagement of our children, but then there are rays of hope.
If smart and strong are the new pretty we need to celebrate science fairs more than selfies, math competitions more than insta followers, grit over giving in, problem-solving over popularity, and grades over make-up tutorials. This isn’t a competition pitting kids against each other, it’s more about shutting down the constant overt and covert messages about beauty being the ultimate prize.
I’m teaching a group of college women about group therapy practices. Each week the students lead a different part of the class and I listen as they share about the things they manage: volunteering, working, studying, caring for others, roommate issues, dating, finances, and the list goes on. This is an outstanding group of individuals yet none of them feel good enough. “I look at what my friend’s post and think “What the hell? Really? My life sucks. I feel like a freaking beast in my tower sitting in my sweatpants.”
If smart is the new pretty, let’s celebrate thinking. Let’s compliment the way a girl figured out a difficult problem, not the way her jeans looked. Let’s not give a fig newton about sitting at home wearing sweatpants while you’re studying. Tell all of the young adults in your life the truth, no one has the utterly fabulous life they portray. No one.
The world will continue to tell girls (and boys) a million ways they don’t measure up, don’t add to the chorus. In my experience, people don’t need to know what they aren’t good at, they could tell you 10 things in 10 seconds. Your job, all of our jobs, is to make them believe they are smart. All of them. At something. Dig deep, people. These kids need you to say something beyond their hair, their face, their clothes. Give them something that will last.
Keep sharing moxie.