Friday, November 26, 2010

Confessions of an everyday columnist

"I think everybody longs to be loved and longs to know that he or she is
lovable. And, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that he or she is loved and capable of loving." Fred Rogers

Let's face it. When I look in the mirror, I don't see the same person my
husband, Brian, sees.

When Brian looks at me, he pictures a woman who could put on a few pounds and still look fine. He sees someone who has lovely hair. He views a person who has to do very little to turn his head.

I confess, when I look at myself, I see a fat person with unruly hair and too many wrinkles. I have often said, tongue in cheek, I could use a body image therapist.

My menacing picture of how I look is rooted in my childhood when my self-image was being formed.

I guess the good news is that I'm not alone. Research conducted at Flinders University in South Australia reveals that "one-third of all girls in grades nine to 12 think they are overweight, and 60 percent are trying to lose weight."

One study indicates that 57 percent of girls have fasted, dieted, used food substitutes, or smoked more cigarettes to lose weight, according to "Weighing In Girl Scouts of the USA." The same study reports that messages girls receive from the media can damage their feelings of self-worth and negatively affect their behavior.

An AC Nielsen survey says that girls question their own beauty and a majority of girls of normal weight believe they are overweight. More than 90 percent of girls, ages 15 to 17, want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance.

According to a Dove study, "nearly a quarter would consider undergoing plastic surgery, and 13 percent acknowledge having an eating disorder."

Lack of self-esteem in children contributes to school drop-out rates, juvenile homicides, violence in schools, incidence of births to unmarried teens, suicides, eating disorders and abuse of drugs.

Sometimes I think what we all need is a good old-fashioned dose of Mr. Fred Rogers.

In a 2003 TV documentary, Mr. Rogers states, "I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him [or her] realize that he [she] is unique. I end each program by saying, 'You've made this day a special day by just being you. There's no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are."

In another commencement address, this time at Dartmouth College, Mr. Rogers notes, "When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war and justice that proves more powerful than greed."

If we all could love that deep part of us that allows us to stand up for things, just imagine where we'd be today. We would have found long sought-after cures, we would have stop wars, balanced budgets, eliminated crimes, and corrected so many wrongs.

Remember, it's you I like.

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national and state award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took five first-place awards statewide. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at her on Facebook.

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