ASSIGNMENT 13: Mind Over Body

little girl measuring her waist
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(WEAU) -- Experts say it's not fair that women and girls these days are held to an unrealistic and often impossible standard when it comes to how they look and feel about themselves.

Local organizations and parents are turning the tables on pop culture with a goal to show women and girls that they’re perfect just the way they are.

Nickol Morgan wants to instill that mindset in her 4-year-old daughter Nakota.

“I've lived a little and I’m just confident in who I am and I’m okay with that,” said Morgan.

She said “perfection” isn’t what you see on TV, in the magazines or the billboards.

“We have two girls so for us it’s very important to offer nutritious meals obviously. We don't use the ‘d-word,’ the diet word in our house at all and I think it’s really important for them that I’m comfortable with myself no matter what size I am,” said Morgan.

She said in her family’s home, the “d-word” or “diet” is taboo.

Morgan said she hopes to set a good example and show her two daughters that it’s okay to be themselves no matter who they are.

But loving your body as-is can be anything but easy, especially when how you think you're supposed to look or even feel about yourself just isn't the same.

“I think many things have made it so that we're constantly comparing ourselves with one another,” said Gretchen Bachmeier who works for the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center at UW-Eau Claire.

Bachmeier said women and young girls simply get bombarded ads and magazines where page after page is the idealized woman.

She describes the “ideal woman” as society sees her as white, a size 0 to 4 and someone who looks very model-esque.

Bachmeier said when girls and women have it in their heads that they must look certain to be wanted, it leads them to buy things or even crash diet to look like that, leading to anorexia and bulimia at times.

Now a popular clothing company is stepping in a different direction.

In May, H&M released an ad campaign featuring a woman, who by popular notion isn't "perfect." At size 12, he clothing industry considers her to be "plus-size."

“To me it’s almost like refreshing, that we can do that,” said Bachmeier.

Many women find they can relate to the featured model.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the average weight for women at 166 pounds.

We asked a random crowd of young people about how they see themselves. Most of the answers were about looks.

“I like about myself that I’m tall.”
“I dislike my height a lot.”
“I probably wouldn't like my stomach as much.”

But some were about qualities, like an outgoing personality, organization skills and communication skills.

Bachmeier said people start to idolize or strive for looks rather than qualities. People start to forget about what they can bring to the table as far as hobbies, strengths and talents go.

“It’s just that sense of wanting to be wanted,” Bachmeier said. “You want that attention and then you're learning through media and advertising that this is how you get that and no one on the other end is being like, no, let’s value our musical talents, let’s value that you're really good at math.”

Instead, she said society is praising girls for their beauty on the outside.

Teaching girls self-confidence is what the "Girls on the Run" program in Eau Claire is about.

Coaches make sure to teach them the best ways to understand their self-worth.

“I can learn that I can just like myself just the way I am and not want to be like somebody else,” said participant and student at Meadowview Elementary Talia Moszer.

Charlotte Winkler and Melissa Landorf are coaches for Girls on the Run. They say through awareness and education, the next time these girls look in the mirror, they won't see flaws or things they want to change about themselves, but rather confidence, a strong person and who they are as a real individual.

“They see advertisements and magazines and TV, radio. It’s all over, so you know it affects them,” said Winkler.

Landorf said this is a step in the right direction, giving girls confidence.

“By showing that you can walk and you can run that can teach you to be healthy in all different aspects. We want them to be able to look at themselves and like who they are and not worry about the self-image of everybody else,” said Landorf.

Confidence could clearly be seen in the three elementary students we talked to.

“What I like about myself is that I am unique from other people and nobody can be the same as me,” said Graciana Kearn, a participant of Girls on the Run.

“Girls on the Run has helped me to not compare myself to other girls,” said Josie Barstad.

Morgan wants her daughter to benefit in a similar way, by learning self-confidence right at home.

“Just realize she’s going to have so many talents of her own that she’s going to discover and that we all come in different shapes, different sizes and that doesn't define who we are,” said Morgan.

And she hopes her 4-year-old daughter realizes pop culture’s definition of beauty doesn’t determine if we’re better people, in spite of the constant reminders of what someone else thinks beauty is.

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