Written by: Cally Worden
I was watching My Little Pony the other day with my daughter – purely as an exercise in making sure the stuff she is glued to on TV is appropriate of course. Initially I wasn’t sure – whatever happened to the sweet and innocent MLP of my youth? They have morphed into humanoid forms with dubious fashion sense and scary attitudes. Jeez, I must be getting old. But the more I saw the more I liked. ‘Friendship is Magic’ is the general theme of both the most recent human and equine manifestations of MLP. In this one particular episode the message was ‘We’re all different and that’s okay’. I was impressed. What an important point.
Hands-up, Who Hides?
I’ve lost count of the times in my life I’ve hidden my true self in favour of trying to be the person I think I ought to be in any given situation. The desire to ‘fit-in’ is strong and schools often operate on a kind of pack mentality that leaves little room for individuality and difference. You have to be a strong and confident character to be consistently true to yourself in that kind of environment. Now I’m old and cranky I feel less inclined to comply with this pressure to conform, but it took me 42 years to get there. I think it’s great that kids shows are now delivering that message so early.
How to be Happy in Yourself
Curiously this can take some practice. Much of it is about confidence and getting over that fear that being yourself will attract unkind judgements from others. The most important first step is to learn to like yourself for who you are – after all, you can’t expect others to accept you for who you are if you’re constantly questioning it yourself. Write down ten things you like about yourself – this isn’t being arrogant, it’s looking objectively at the person you are and will reveal some of those things that make you attractive as a friend. See, people already like you for who you are. You just need to recognise it.
Know that You’re Not Perfect
Embracing and accepting your flaws as well as your good bits, is part of being comfortable in your own skin. Be prepared to accept constructive criticism with an open mind and take time to reflect on those less savoury aspects of your personality. We all have them. Write a list of these less positive qualities too and make a conscious effort to work on them. And remember not to take yourself too seriously. When friends tease you they’re not being mean, just gently pointing out those parts of you that can irritate others – you may not even realise you present such behaviours until they are pointed out. Then forgive yourself for them, accept them as part of you and make a decision to either work on them or leave them be, and be prepared to live with the consequences of that.
Appreciate what you Have
Being grateful every day for all the good things in your life can lead you to a great inner peace and happiness. From this stems self-acceptance. Saying ‘Thank You’ is not just good manners, it’s a way of expressing gratitude and makes you feel good inside, just as doing something spontaneous for a loved one can show your generosity while simultaneously boosting your feel good hormone levels.
Be Confident in your Body
This means accepting all the bumps and wobbly bits and loving them because they are part of you. Forget stereotypes of perfection – who wants to be a stick insect with airbrushed skin anyway? They are just deluding themselves. Get body confident and if this means embarking on a new exercise regime then do it – for you, not for anyone else. You can also get happy with your body by wearing clothes that make you feel good. Don’t dress to impress, dress to feel good inside. I see the perfectly groomed Mums at the school gates look me up and down sometimes, my jeans and faded shirt falling way short of their own levels of personal appearance acceptability. But I feel comfortable with my look. So just smile in their general direction. I hope they feel good too, I genuinely do.
Surround Yourself with the Right People
The Right People are ones that make you feel good about yourself. Ditch those ‘friends’ who bring you down. Anyone who can’t accept the real you is not a helpful individual to be around. This can be more difficult in the workplace, but recognition of who is a positive influence in your work world can lead you to assess your job and career. Are they really ‘you’ too? Or is it time for a change. Being happy in you is defined by so many different things.
Learning to be happy in yourself can take time, but as you work towards self-acceptance you’ll see how liberating it is. Your confidence may wobble occasionally – we all have our own particular sensitivities – but reaching a place where you are finally happy with who you are as a person will give you the internal power to combat these wobbles and remain true to yourself. Keep at it, the effort is more than worth it.
How Appropriate is New MLP World?
Just before I sign off, a word of caution about the latest manifestation of MLP and the Equestria Girls. While the messages about friendship, loyalty and acceptance are IMHO very valuable, there is some content that is questionable for younger viewers. The characters exhibit some distinctly teen behaviours at various points, and there is some general bitchiness that little girls really don’t need to see yet (they have years of that ahead in the playground and workplace). But then you could argue that in gaining exposure to such behaviours early they learn how not to be that way, what to expect and ways of dealing with it. Wish I’d known some of these things before now.
The jury’s out in my house. As my girl turns 7 soon I’ll be keeping an eye on the show and making sure we chat about the content to ensure the right messages get across. And in the meantime I’m busy picking myself up off the floor at the cost of the merchandise. You want HOW MUCH?! for that spindly plastic doll with purple hair and plastic shoes?! Santa needs a lie down …