Learning to love and appreciate yourself and others

Published on Thursday, 14 August 2014 10:14 - Written by By STEPHANIE BARNARD, guest columnist

I sat there staring at the screen trying to let the words sink in.

Thigh gap.

I mean, honestly, this couldn’t actually be a thing, could it?

As we all know not to do but continue to do it anyways, I Googled it.

T-h-i-g-h g-a-p * click *

And there they were.

Pasted before me were hundreds of girls and women with their feet perfectly placed together and there, between their tanned, toned legs, I found what I had hoped not to find: gaps.

As I scrolled down the page, I discovered not only are they a “thing,” but females all over the world are literally obsessed with having one. Instagram, blogs, Youtube tutorials - they are everywhere.

I closed the window.

I needed to process this.

Obviously, the overwhelming societal push for women’s bodies to be “perfect” is nothing new to me. After 28 years, I have had my share of ups and downs (mostly downs) when it has come to accepting my body for what it is.

In addition, being a teacher has given me a whole new insight into the current challenges that girls face with social media and online bullying — things I never had to deal with as a 12-year-old.

Movies, magazines, commercials, clothing ads - it’s a never-ending list of images pouring into our brains, telling us that we need to look, act, be a certain way.

Not to mention the absent fathers, the comparisons to family members, the abusive relationships, the remarks from classmates, the porn addictions, the selfies on Facebook, the perfect Pinterest moms … need I go on?

Even as I sit here typing this out, I’m beginning to feel a little more inadequate than I did 10 minutes ago. Sheesh!

I had to do something. The more I thought about these girls and their gaps, the more I was sinking into a hole that I often crawl into when I begin to compare myself to other women.

Determined not to let that happen, I opened up my charcoal pencils and oversized sketch pad. I stared down at the blank pages, not really sure how to translate my emotions into drawings, when it hit me. I ran back to the computer to do a second search—this time for inspiration.

I just knew that somewhere out there in that endless world wide web I could find some strong, confident women to serve as models that may not fit into the world’s category of “beautiful.”

And I was right. I hit the jackpot.

I sketched these women for the rest of the day.

At this point, my emotions were much more in check, and I could clearly gather my thoughts. I reflected on how this issue has affected every woman in my life.

Whether it’s weight, skin, bra size, successfulness, abilities, money, marital status, age — every female has struggled with self-love at one point in their life, in one aspect or another.

It also occurred to me how often women forget that we are all in the same boat. We’re all just trying to live our lives with purpose and many times struggle to remember that our worth is not based on what size pants we wear or if we have a ring on our finger or if we’re working at the job of our dreams.

Why is it so hard for us to show a little grace to the rest of the female population? Shouldn’t we be reminding each other to love ourselves a little bit?

And so it begins.

I admit that I don’t know where this idea will take us, but I have a proposition. I suggest we start a group — a circle of women who take a moment to love ourselves and, in turn, love one another.

What this will look like, I’m not sure yet. Maybe just encouraging Facebook posts for now. Maybe a kind phone call or hand-written letter, something that will remind at least one woman in our lives that she is full of infinite worth and she deserves to love herself.

With the help of my awesome husband and friends, I have already started planning local events to take this idea from a blog to a community. I’ll also challenge those of you in different cities to try some of this as well! I will try my best to update everyone and include you as this progresses.

To help understand this issue a little better, I have made a short survey. If you haven’t already filled it out, it would be very helpful to me! You can get there by clicking on this link: www.surveymonkey.com/s/C5QMVWH

If you have any suggestions, questions, or would like to get involved, let me know! We can grab some coffee and find a way to get you plugged in!

Let’s do something awesome together!

Stephanie Barnard is a Tyler resident and a special education teacher. The name of her blog is Help A Girl Out.