My best friends' five-year-old recently had a meltdown because she thought she was "fat".
With an inclination for the dramatic, the tantrum was passed off as an overreaction to whatever was happening at the time.
She is a perfectly healthy, happy kid. One who spends a lot of time outdoors on the family's rural property and counts activities like tending to hens among favourite past-times. Like other five-year-olds, she also likes to push boundaries, has selective hearing and is not immune to meltdowns - none of which are normally worth mentioning.
However, this one seemed to stick out. Enough that her father brought it up while we were all out for dinner. Like a lot of our group catch-ups, there was plenty of food and drink, and everyone was in good spirits.
"It was really weird," he said. "She had a complete meltdown and was saying she was fat."
I am sure I looked as bewildered as he sounded. I did not think five-year-olds factored "fat" into their lives. Certainly not one who was the offspring of my friends. None of us had ever been overly concerned about body image and had never discussed it with any children. It seemed to be the opposite of the down-to-earth, we-live-how-we-want mantra we strived to maintain.
As we laughed about how ridiculous it all seemed, the five-year-old's mother said there was one issue which continued to bother her. Her daughter had been in kura for a term and she noticed all the girls, including hers, were "really into how they looked". "They talk about it a lot. Maybe that's where [the meltdown] came from," she said.
The momentary silence at the table revealed how depressing this sounded. For myself, it seemed to conflict with the values those at dinner - particularly the women - kept. Yes, being pretty is nice, but it is not a reliable foundation for your identity and self-worth.
Perhaps, we were overreacting in our concern. However, it brought the conversation to another interesting point. When I was asked for my thoughts, I came to a wholly unexpected conclusion. I revisited the insecurities of my teenage years and found the biggest influence on my concept of body image was sports. Specifically, netball.
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I first took to the court when I was 12 and continued playing until I finished university. Over those 10 years, I played for school, club, representative age group and development league teams. I never quite made provincial level, but I loved playing right up until my last season.
Looking back, netball's role in the development of my self-confidence during my formative years was invaluable. Once I worked out I was a decent player, I made adjustments to my lifestyle to improve my on-court performance. In those early years, it was about committing to training and doing anything extra asked of you. That might be as simple as 10 minutes of skipping each day or shooting 50 goals, three-times a week.
As I grew older, I gained a better understanding of my body. Alongside other players, I learnt about different types of food and how a balanced diet complemented training. At university, most of us were away from home, and this became even more important. A nutritionist spoke to us about eating properly on a student budget. Needless-to-say, poached eggs, cans of baked beans and porridge after morning trainings became a staple.
Beginning strength and weight training during my late teens was also memorable. I saw how my body changed, and what that meant for my game. Rehabilitating injuries, and preventing them, was another learning point. It was always an extremely frustrating period of mostly repetitive, indoor exercises.
Overall, participation in netball meant I focused on how my body worked, rather than how it looked. While I still had the same hang-ups many girls struggle with over image, they never featured at netball. After all, there is only so much you can worry about while struggling to breathe, jump, run, pass and catch.
So, that night at the dinner table, I explained my theory and its background. The five-year-old's mother agreed. Coincidentally, she also played netball and was an ace tennis player in her day.
Importantly, we also acknowledged the pressure many young women continue to be subjected to. It is a strange thing to hear children wrapped-up in their looks. For myself, netball was critical to combating that. It grounded understanding of my body in training, netball goals and being healthy. Size was simply a side-effect of that. Winning was too.