The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg (or as I like to call him Daddy Bloomberg) has rolled out a new ad campaign. This campaign called The NYC Girls Project is targeting girls ages 7-12. The purpose of the ads are to promote self-esteem in young girls. Studies have shown that girls within this age bracket are at a high risk for negative body images which can lead to eating disorders, teen pregnancy, bullying, addictions and even suicide. Every ad depicts girls of different races and sizes and ends with the campaign slogan: “I am beautiful the way I am.”
The campaign describes the self-esteem initiative as a way “to help girls believe their value comes from their character, skills, and attributes – not appearance”. In a world where women are photo shopped and the size of the average model is a negative number, ads of real girls portrayed in real life should be applauded. However, there’s one little problem. These ads that promote beauty of all sizes and shapes and encourage young girls to love themselves for who they are, don’t match up with the society they live in.
You don’t have to live in New York City to realize that girls are suffering from the negative impact of low self –esteem. In fact, in my opinion the campaign ad should target females in the age bracket of 7 to about 55 years (give or take). We like to blame the fashion industry or Hollywood for their unrealistic portrayal of beauty in women as the root cause of eating disorders or teen over-sexuality. However, all you need to do is look around your own community and see where our young girls (and boys) follow their quest for outward perfection.
We live in a society that constantly preaches fitness and health. Now these things are not bad and are important but it’s the “worship like” practice that sets a bad example for our kids. Our sports programs are now so overly competitive that many kids are devoting all their outside school time to practice, physical conditioning, and games– leaving little downtime for relaxation or simple childhood activities. Schools and health programs have over-focused on obesity and good eating habits that many kids are fearful of being overweight. This is a particular concern since adolescence brings on physical body changes where weight gain is sometimes a normal and natural process. This type of fitness and health over-drive magnifies the desire for physical perfection in our kids.
Social media also sets a bad example for our children. In the age of selfies and Instagram, it’s difficult to practice what we preach. Although, we teach our kids that character and kindness are more important than the outward appearance, it’s no match for the number of likes and shares they receive on that cute photo they posted of themselves on their smart phones. It’s difficult to understand that beauty comes from within, when there is constant digital approval of their outward appearance.
The NYC ad campaign is not a bad thing, but I believe it’s not realistic. We can’t teach our young girls that they are “beautiful the way they are” just by posting it on an oversize banner or tweeting it on Twitter. Feeling beautiful comes from the love and devotion a child feels within a family. It comes from Dads who wrap their arms around their daughters and love them and tell them their beautiful even during that awkward stage of adolescence. Self-esteem comes from mothers who model confidence and self-worth in themselves and reflect it back to their own daughters. Self-value is teaching our children that life is about the bigger picture and it’s not about our own little “me” world.
The most misguided aspect of the whole ad campaign is the lie that a girl’s value comes from their unique character, skills and attributes. That’s not where anyone’s value comes from. Many people search a lifetime for that feeling of self-worth and value even in the midst of successful careers and awarded talents. The NYC ad campaign is an example of our misguided idea of what beauty really is in our society. It’s guided by self-help programs and hypocritical actions from our media, Hollywood, and even the community we live in.
True self-esteem comes from the understanding that each of us are created in God’s image and none of us were made by mistake, even with all our imperfections. God’s love and the salvation of Christ is the only self-esteem initiative that gives us value and truly defines us as “beautiful just the way we are”.