Inspirational self-empowerment speaker Brie Mathers is in town sharing her “Love the Skin You’re In” presentation with girls in Arlington Public Schools. Her presentation helps girls understand how ideas of beauty are socially constructed and uses mindfulness tools to show them how to connect to their inner selves and to others in a way that nurtures their spirits.
Brie knows first-hand how damaging it can be to measure yourself against an impossible standard of beauty. She suffered with an eating disorder in high school and is now on a mission to give girls the tools they need to critically analyze what they see in the media and to cultivate self-love and positive relationships that will sustain them.
She gave her presentation at the Arlington Public Schools Whole Child Conference on March 16, an event that was open to all APS families with children in grades 5 and up. Then she took her talk to Thomas Jefferson Middle School the following afternoon. She addressed an enthusiastic crowd of 400 girls and some boys who had opted into the assembly.
This afternoon, Monday, March 20, she’ll be addressing an after-school crowd at 3:15 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School at 1301 N. Stafford St., Arlington, VA. It’s open to the public. Her presentation lasts an hour and is very powerful and engaging. Her hope is for girls to feel empowered to love themselves and their bodies, and to be supportive of other girls.
Brie’s “Love the Skin You’re In” presentation includes lots of images from mainstream culture that may be inappropriate for children younger than 12, especially if they are not frequently exposed to commercials and magazines. Brie deconstructs these images and teaches girls how to do so, but some of the messages discovered along the way are pretty troubling. Brie’s goal is to get young women to think critically about what these images are trying to convey: the idea that girls are not good enough and that they need to buy something or change themselves in order to be liked, or even loved.
On the contrary, Brie’s presentation offers the convincing and compelling message that girls are to be celebrated and supported for who they are.
Brie incorporates mindfulness exercises to help girls learn how to detach from negative thoughts before those thoughts become an entire self-defeating story. And she preaches the merits of love, compassion, friendship and community as powerful antidotes to the damage that can be inflicted by the media and people who have bought into its harmful messages.
The presentation does not shy away from talking about how the media instills in us not just sexism and sizism but also heterosexism, homophobia and racism. Her talk is frank and calls out what is true, like the way a makeup ad lightens Beyonce’s skin tone and many other disturbing examples of racism.
Brie’s presentation is also open to contributions by girls; she calls often on audience members to share their views. She gives them a platform and does not judge their answers. She frames their comments in a way that helps everyone feel validated and also challenged.
Brie includes music and movement and lots of laughter in the presentation. She keeps the girls on their toes with expert pacing, surprises, and a balance of showing, teaching, and engaging.
The room at TJMS was powerfully energized. When the principal came on stage and it was announced that girls had to be dismissed to get to their buses to go home, there was a palpable sense of disappointment. The students stayed to share their testimonials about what they’d learned and to take photos with Brie.
They did not want to leave. For a full hour, they had been heard and engaged and told that their thoughts mattered.
And that they mattered.
Brie Mathers is an anorexia survivor and former Olympic hopeful who has engaged over 85,000 teen girls worldwide with her connective school-wide body image multi-media event Love the Skin You’re In. She is a Canadian-born McGill University graduate, author of Freedom to Blossom: An Invitation to Shine, yogini, and motivational speaker.
Brie’s trip to Arlington was long in the making, with support from the Global Co Lab Network and the Josh Anderson Foundation working with Arlington Public Schools. Click here to learn more about the APS Whole Child Framework here.
The Global Co Lab Network, an Arlington based global NGO, has worked for three years with an amazing group of local parents to bring Brie to Arlington, with the goal of exposing teens to her multimedia presentation and then linking them to the multitude of resources in Arlington, including those addressing mindfulness, yoga, mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, and anorexia, to name a few. The Co Lab brings young people together with established networks in small and fun gatherings, to share ideas, nurture and build collaborative relationships, with the goal of creating or fostering new initiatives that better engage youth in addressing challenges, local and global – see globalcolab.net.
The Josh Anderson Foundation has created our minds matter, a student-led movement to change the school culture around mental health through group activities and school-wide promotion aimed at encouraging students to seek help for themselves and friends, promoting social connectedness and the development of healthy habits and coping skills. Visit joshandersonfoundation.org and www.ourmindsmatter.org.
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Jessica Claire Haney is the founder, publisher and editor of Mindful Healthy Life and was the founder and a longtime leader of the Arlington/Alexandria Chapter of Holistic Moms Network. Jessica is a writer and editor who is working on her first novel. Find information about her writing and about the editing and business consulting services she offers at JessicaClaireHaney.com. She also volunteers on issues related to wellness in public schools. Jessica’s personal blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama, on Facebook at facebook.com/