In our classes and workshops with children and teens, we intentionally discuss with them the power of words. How words can hurt, how words can lift one up, how words can break one down, and how words can make change. So when I was reading the news this morning and heard that yet once again a controversial, professional athlete, Jameis Winston, had spoken to a group of children and lifted a few up and put others down, I was truly disappointed. My disappointment stems not only from the person telling the boys that they are strong and telling the girls to sit down as they should be quiet and polite, but also from who we as a culture are looking up to and showing our children who look up to. I am deeming this the #PedestalEffect. Our Culture has developed in such a way that we look up to celebrities and sports figures and think that they are going to be our guide to a better life. Think about it for a second, the Kardashian’s have created a selfie culture which has changed the way people portray themselves. We follow and watch every move that the famous make and we aspire to be like them regardless of what they stand for. What is it that makes us think that these celebrities and sports figures are so much better than who and what we are as people? One can argue that they are successful but then define success for me. Is success only money? Is it talent? Is it who has the best body or goes on the best trips? What are we teaching our children about success and self worth? What did Jameis Winston’s words convey to the boys and girls that he was speaking to?
These are Winston’s words that he said to the children:
“But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. A lot of boys aren’t supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I’m saying? One day y’all are going to have a very deep voice like this (in deep voice). One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice. …But the ladies ― they’re supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men supposed to be strong. I want y’all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!“
This is where we are as a culture and who we allow to be our children’s role models. ALL children need to be validated and told that they are strong and shown that they are equal, not just one gender or race. There are real heroes out there that we as parents and adults can choose to influence our children and the words that are used MATTER. During this same school assembly one little girl turned to her teacher and asked, “Aren’t I strong?” In one moment, this influential person made a little girl question her self worth. When one experiences that self doubt, where does it lead? What happens to the self confidence and strength that child had prior to being told to sit down and be quiet because that is your place?
Lets make a choice as a culture to stop the #PedestalEffect and choose who influences all of our children wisely. It is on us to make them believe that they can be the best if they put their minds to it.