This summer, HealthCorps coordinator Tenaj Ferguson is blogging about her experience at Camp Pennbrook. You can read her first post here.
At Camp Pennbrook, we have a tradition called “Sunday Celebration,” where we highlight the achievements of our campers — including the ability to perform a push up or another exercise, being able to run a mile or more for the first time, improving personal records and being able to fit into items of clothing.
The proud moments are shared among the whole camp and the praises keep the energy and excitement alive as our ladies see unbelievable changes in themselves.
For the culmination of the first week of camp, I wanted to plant seeds and to incite an important conversation. Early in this process I wanted the ladies to think about who they are, who they want to be when they leave, and how they will react to the challenge of growing and being out of their comfort zone.
My lesson focused on beauty in the 21st century. At Camp Pennbrook, we are constantly trying to push the girls out of their comfort zones in a respectable manner.
My goal at “Sunday Celebration” was to develop a resilient mindset in the girls so that they could approach challenges with a positive attitude rather than defeat. By focusing on a relevant 21st century such as beauty, I sought to level the girls’ expectations about weight loss and to help them to see that weight loss doesn’t automatically make them beautiful once they reach their goal weight or clothing size. I wanted to emphasize that how we feel and how we perceive ourselves at every physical stage is what is important. I wanted to share that ultimately we must love ourselves inside even as we work to improve our character and our physical image.
We discussed challenges and how they make us stronger by conditioning us in discomfort, hardship and conflict. We discussed how hardships teach us more about our strength. I left the girls with two of my favorite quotes about challenges and suggested they find a few quotes that can get them through hard times:
“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.” – Muhammad Ali
“Challenges nourish courage. You can’t be brave if only wonderful things happen to you.” – Unknown originator
Many of the girls shared that beauty and appearance issues are the cause of much of their challenges today. Everything from not feeling as beautiful as other women in the media, feeling insecure about their bodies, feeling defeated about unrealistic body expectations among a host of other things. We had a really open time of sharing and this discussion proved to be useful because I knew the ladies were really thinking now.
I knew I had to feature beauty and share more about the journey to overcoming body issues, tackling negative self-perception and loving yourself.
We watched a clip made by Dove – Real Beauty Sketches. The video documents an experiment showing how we often perceive ourselves more critically than strangers do.
This was an insightful video demonstrating how we can be so harsh when describing ourselves. In the video the strangers describe themselves harshly while strangers were gentle and often found positive features and characteristics in them. The girls could really relate to seeing themselves for mostly their flaws but seeing the clip raised their awareness of how often we can be negative about our own personal image. We all agreed to seek the positive traits in ourselves and to constantly develop characteristics and skills that we can be proud of in ourselves. Since real beauty is based on us loving ourselves I encouraged the girls to define what beauty inside and out means for them.
After lots of questions, comments and related anecdotes we left united, resounding a mantra:
I AM STRONG, BRAVE, AND BEAUTIFUL!