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The Value of Female Role Models

Every child needs healthy role models to model themselves after in life. Kids aren’t born knowing what is inherently a good or bad choice, instead they absorb the lessons they are taught, and model themselves after those closest to them as they grow. Hopefully, by choosing good role models as they mature, they are equipped with the necessary skills to negotiate difficult times and decisions in life.

Often today, kids are bombarded with negative messages as they grow up. Athletes and celebrities seen as “role models” may actually model just the kind of behavior we would rather see kids avoid. For girls and young women, it is even more difficult. Girls are constantly bombarded with messages both subtle and not so subtle, that they need to be prettier, skinnier, and more popular to get ahead as teenagers, or even young adults. At a time when campus and date rape is rampant in our country, even with the current movement of women speaking out, the #metoo comes after a young woman has had a harassing (or worse) experience. Now more than ever, girls need strong, independent and ethical women as role models.

With the recent Olympics, there were many young women who girls had the opportunity to learn more about. One stood out to me as a great role model because of the way she handled both victory and defeat. While I don’t know much about Lindsey Vonn’s personal life, I was impressed with her public statements, love of family, and her work with her foundation for girls, The Lindsey Vonn Foundation, which carries the mission: "Giving the future women of the world the confidence to move mountains through scholarships, education and athletics."

Apparently however, after winning bronze, and not gold in the downhill, Vonn was bashed in social media by some tweeters. Her response to one was:

“It’s ok Julie. Not everyone has to like me but my family loves me and I sleep well at night. I work hard and try to be the best person I can be. If they don’t like me, their loss I guess…Thank you for the support.”

If only we could instill that message in every kid who has every received a mean text or social media post. By her response, Lindsey Vonn seems to indicate a healthy self-awareness that it is her choice how she feels about herself, and she won’t let the negativity undermine that. That is a lesson that is so valuable and can’t totally be taught. However, as a woman who focuses on a foundation for helping girls achieve their dreams, Vonn has not only exhibited that attitude, but she also projects a healthy body image that is critical for girls as they mature. Vonn’s focus on healthy eating and strength, as opposed to celebrity images of overly thin women, again makes for an important image for girls to emulate. Additionally, she has spoken openly about her fight with depression in her late teens and early twenties, and the value of talking about your problems, and seeking appropriate help. Her candor in speaking about her life, once again helps instill in girls the idea that they are not alone if they experience problems, and even a popular athlete, seemingly on top of the world, can have problems just like them.

While all children need to find the right role models for them, I applaud Lindsey Vonn, not for her prowess as one of the world’s greatest female skiers, but for her desire to help girls achieve their dreams in a healthy positive way. Her Olympic runs may be over, but the good that she can do is only beginning.