By Deanna Shoss
So let me introduce you to my new hero, Jennifer Livingston, news anchor at WKBT in LaCrosse, WI, who responded after receiving an email from a viewer saying she couldn’t be a good role model because of her weight.
“You know nothing about me but what you see on the outside. I am much more than a number on a scale,” said Livingston, in an on-air response. She then went a step further to point out that October is Anti-bullying Month.
In fact, a recent article in the Huffington post reported that “about 44 percent of children between the ages of 11 and 13 say they've been bullied because of their weight.”
Lawrence says that she’s okay, as an adult with “thick skin, literally and figuratively, as this viewer points out,” says Lawrence, but expresses concern for her own three daughters and other kids who are bullied. And studies show that bullying as a child can have long-term consequences, including being at greater risk of depression and having lower self-esteem later in life.
For me, the former fattest girl in my fifth grade class, I want to shout “Go Jennifer!” As a 10 year old all I dreamed of was being skinny and thought about how much I hated myself for not being skinny. I’ve been at a relatively healthy weight most of my adult life, but it’s still hard not to tear up and immediately feel the pain of that bullied little girl when I think about it. (But at least now I want to hug and comfort her!)
Robin Stein, LCSW and Director of Response, which empowers teens to make healthy choices says (after first consoling me about those bad girls who called me names in my 5th grade class) "the story resonates with its focus on the underdog standing up for herself, saying ‘that’s not okay to do to me'."
“Certainly kids as well as adults make snap judgments from what’s in front of us, but snap judgments never take into consideration a person’s entire experience,” says Stein. “Many people, especially youth, are vulnerable to allowing themselves to be defined by others.”
And that’s what Livingston mostly advises: “Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies.”
Both Livingston and Stein frame the issue from the perspective of adults and the messages we pass on to our children. “This behavior is learned, says Livingston. “If you are at home talking about the ‘fat news lady,’ chances are your kids are going to go to school and call someone fat.”
“Resilience at home also can help a child cope with stress from bullies or other challenges of growing up,” says Stein. What messages are we sending our own children by our comments and behaviors? “As adults and parents, if we exude fact that we’re confident in ourselves, whether we’re thick or thin, then we can help our kids be healthy.”
“It feels good to use your voice to say that’s not acceptable to me—it’s offensive and hurtful,” says Stein. “When a child voice hurt out loud they are often surprised at positive response, but that builds confidence, that you can stand up for yourself.”