I am still learning about blogging, so when I originally posted this, I left out the most important part; a link to the story that got this particular ball rolling. My apologies to the author, and my good friend, whose bravery inspired me to write this. The link is here now, giving credit where credit is due.
Yea though I walk through the Valley of Introspection, I shall fear no opinion, least of all my own.
Stereotypes are like fairy tales; both are oversimplified ideas that are inaccurate at best. As we raise our children, we tell them how beautiful they are. With each accomplishment, we tell them how smart they are, how brave and strong. As a result of such complimenting, along with the accompanying positive reinforcement, our little girls want to grow up to be beautiful, smart, brave and strong, like Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, ad nauseum. Our sons want to be heroes.
As they grow, they fall, seemingly naturally, into stereotypical roles of the smart geek or the dense socialite, the jock or the nerd, and various other stereotypes. Most of the time, the deciding factor is looks. What’s sad is that many times they assign themselves these roles. Falling into the pattern of any particular stereotype is a natural thing for most people, because it gives us a sense of security to be thought normal, like others.
This pertains to anorexia in that girls see (1) the stereotypical category that they place themselves into and (2) the stereotypical category that they would very much like to be placed into. Seeing those two things to the exclusion of everything else, or even very nearly everything else, can be dangerous. Sometimes, it can even be fatal.
That’s just one example of the path that lies ahead for each and every one of us who falls into a stereotype. What can we do about it? We can’t stop people from stereotyping, but we can praise attributes that seem to have been forgotten as virtuous. Kindness, humility, compassion, among others.
Tell your children they are beautiful when they do something kind so that when they look in the mirror they love who they see, not what they see. Teach them the value of humility; a vain, arrogant soul will be popular in certain circles, but is rarely loved. You want your children to be cherished, not displayed. Demonstrate compassion, and they will likely follow in your footsteps. Remind them, every chance you get, that everyone they meet is struggling with something. They will be stereotyped no matter what, let them rise into the kind, generous soul category.