Pretty SophiaSophia is 3.She has soft, Disney princess brown eyes, shimmering auburn hair, and her nose wrinkles up adorably whenever she smiles which is almost constantly given her cheery temperament.She has a swarm of loving people in her life: Two wonderful parents, a little baby brother, and a swarm of affectionate and caring grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends.
She has a stimulating home environment, makes friends easily at her little preschool, and is shes very bright, having already learned to read at a pretty advanced level. She seems to have everything going for her in life, everything you could hope for for a child.But Im worried about Sophia.
And for a reason that probably seems silly at first blush.See, every time Sophia arrives someplace new her grandparents house to make goodies with Granny, Aunt Susans for a birthday party, the doctors office for a yearly checkup, and even the checkout line at the grocery store the first thing everybody says to her as soon as they see her is: Oh my goodness, arent you adorable! Or one of many variations on this:You look so pretty in that dress!
Look how nice your hair looks today!If that isnt the most adorable little smile Ive ever seen!Youre getting so big!
EtcFor Sophias entire life shes been greeted and showered with love, attention, and affection. But a shockingly high percentage of the time that love has been preceded by positive verbal comments about her appearance.While no one is consciously aware of iteither Sophia or the adults in her lifecomments about her appearance are getting strongly paired and associated with her experience of love, attention, and affection.
When she goes to bake cookies with her grandmother, for example, they spend much of their time together talking about cookies and baking and laughing. But the first thing Sophia experiences is almost always always a rush of enthusiasm and affection simultaneously overlaid with verbal comments about how nice she looks.Why Im Worried About SophiaThe reason Im worried about Sophia is that she is being taught unconsciously to associate positive social interactions and affection (and by extension, her sense of self worth) with verbal affirmations of her appearance.
While no one in her life is teaching her this explicitly, Sophia is implicitly learning that feeling good and being loved are strongly tied to her appearance. This implicit learning is the same process that governed what Pavlovs dogs were learning a century ago: Every time someone entered the room to bring them food a little bell rang, teaching the dogs that the sound of a bell meant food. This is basic classical conditioning.
Any animal, humans included, easily learn to associate two however unrelated things if they are repeatedly presented together even if theyre not consciously aware of the connection. And this learning is especially strong when it happens consistently and at a young age. So it scares me that Sophia and just about every other little girl in our culture is being taught a powerful lesson by their well-intentioned but psychologically-unwitting adult loved ones: Our little girls are learning that the single best predictor of feeling loved is having people comment positively on how they look.
I hope its apparent what a scary lesson that is. What a horrifying belief were unknowingly planting in our little girls minds. What an awful incentive structure were creating for their future behavior.
How with every seemingly kind comment about how nice they look, were strengthening the connection between how they look to other people and how they feel about themselves.This is a psychological disaster waiting to happen. When weve know for decades that women consistently experience depression, anxiety, and a host of other emotional difficulties at a significantly higher rates than men (sometimes double or triple), I dont think we need brain chemistry or hormones to explain why.
The words we use with our daughters are teaching them a powerful and not easily unlearned lesson about what it means to be loved and feel loved.My Challenge to All of Us for International Womens DaySo, what can we do?Maybe, like me, youre a dad with your own young daughters.
Maybe youre a grandparent, a school teacher, a coach, or a doctor. Even if you dont interact with young girls on a regular basis, you probably watch movies and TV. In any case, we can all start to notice and think carefully about how we as a society talk to girls and young women, especially how often comments on their appearance are immediately followed by displays of love and affection.
Once you learn to look for it, you cant unsee it. Youll start to notice it everywhere, and it will start to make you really uncomfortable. Which is a good thing.
We need to feel uncomfortable in order to change. Parting ThoughtsWe all want to feel good about ourselves. And we want our daughters and granddaughters to grow up feeling good about themselves.
But the basic template for how we feel about ourselves begins very early in life, and in no small part based on the words we hear from the people closest to us. Which is why we all need to pay attention and think carefully about how and when we affirm the young women in our lives.I love my daughter Elenas golden brown hair.
But I love her curiosity and her nose for adventure far, far more. I hope my words to her reflect that. Did you enjoy this article?
You can find more like it, plus other guides, books, and resources for working smarter at your personal development goals at my website: story is published in The Startup, Mediums largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 303,461 people.Subscribe to receive our top stories here. RELATED QUESTION I didn't get Google Glass Explorer Edition.
Is trying to learn Glass dev without the hardware a futile effort? No, you can still learn the fundamentals of Glass development without the hardware. There are three main approaches for accomplishing this: 1) Visit the Mirror API documentation, get into the playground, and start hashing up some code.
Download the PHP, Java, and Python library, whichever you're most comfortable with. Familiarize yourself with the jargon and converntions (timeline, bundles, menus, etc). Read the support documentation (second link below) to see how the Glass hardware actually functions.
Build some apps to this specification. Soon enough, you will find a friend with hardware to t