Your Influential Shadow

It’s been a li’l while since I last posted, but we had a crazy December. We currently train 4 teams from a local volleyball club (BRYC if you’re interested in playing for them) and we had a high volume of young ladies that we need to evaluate, program for, and on-board to the SAPT family. It was a lot of work, but I’m through the initial tsunami!

My husband wrote a blog post awhile back on his site about a conversation we had with my dad. My dad is a rather intelligent fellow and a retired Air Force general with years of leading and commanding people. He imparted this wisdom upon us, “Be mindful if the shadow you cast.” You can read Steve’s post for the more eloquent and full musing upon the topic. This quote sums it up here best:

"Exactly," said John (Kelsey: that's my dad). "One of the distinguishing qualities of a shadow is that it stretches outward from a person, covering the ground around them. And this happens whether the person wants it to or not. It's unavoidable."
"Titles act in much the same way. They stretch out in front of you wherever you go, and will be noticed by everyone around you. They affect how everyone views you and the things you oversee. This is a burden that you must carry, and while it may be a joyful burden, it's still a burden. It's inescapable."

We all cast shadows that touch the people around us (as a coach, parent, boss, teacher, sibling, spouse, friend, etc.) and in my role of a coach, my shadow reaches a lot of pre-teens and teenagers. As this mass of teenage girls descended upon SAPT I became acutely aware of how impactful their coach, especially their female coach, is in their lives. What I say and do can affect these girls- for better or for worse- long-term.

Coincidentally, my co-worker Emily sent me a link to this article from the Washington Post about the removal of the term “bikini body” from Women’s Health magazine. I encourage you all to read it as it as I don’t plan on rehashing it here.

The combination of this article with the influx of teenager girls spawned a couple of thoughts:

  1. There is an overabundance of message bombarding women and girls about what they “should” look like, and frankly, it can be damaging to our psyche. (this isn’t a new principle)
  2. I struggled (and still do at times, though it’s easier to fight the lies) with body image anxiety, so much so that it drove me into an eating disorder for years. How can I wield my shadow to help prevent that from happening to young women?
  3. I’m in a position to help combat those messages; while I can’t walk around and provide constant verbal counter-action, I can speak openly and positively about body image with them. I can engage them in conversation, listen to them, and encourage them to seek a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle rather than one that is focused solely on obtaining the nebulous and narrow view of a “bikini body.”
  4. The shadow I cast on these girls could be part of an effort to swing them away from body image worries that plague my sex.

Great, Kelsey, good for you, but why does this even matter?

Because you cast a shadow too! Your shadow is influential, and probably in ways you don't even realize. 

How are you wielding the power of your shadow? Are you mindful of the impact you have on those around you? Do you take your burden seriously?

As a boss, how do you treat your employees? Parents- you undoubtedly have the most powerful shadow in your kids' lives. Your words and actions will affect them for the rest of their lives. Coaches and teachers also are incredible influencers, again for better or for worse.

Aside from this particular instance, I considered the my shadow in all realms of my life and it caused me to be more mindful of my interactions with others and how I present myself. I encourage you to take some time and sit down and think about where your shadow goes and who it touches. It could make a world of difference.