We’d venture a guess that when most kindergartners are asked to draw a picture of something they like, they opt for stuff like puppies, princesses, pizza, that kind of thing. But if that (totally uninformed) notion is accurate, Semra Aniston Young is not like most kindergartners. Last week, the 6-year-old student in Kansas City, Missouri, received her first writing assignment, ever: Write (and draw) about something you like. Semra’s final product? A smiling self-portrait accompanied by the proud, all-caps declaration, “I LIKE MY BODEE.” “We laughed when we first read it…then discussed how happy we were that she sees herself as beautiful and that she loves her body,” says Semra’s mom, Kali Young, an assistant principal at an elementary school in Platte County, Missouri, who shared the drawing on Facebook last week. “In a time where negatives seem to swarm in our society, I want my daughter to feel the positive and see the positive in herself and others.” Young says she and her husband, Brian, who also have a son, 11-year-old Cooper, have made an effort to encourage their children’s positive self-image. “We focus on inner beauty — kindness, compassion — and always highlight that above all else,” Young says. “When it comes to outer beauty, we point out what a beautiful shirt someone is wearing, or compliment a beautiful hair color. My hope is that she sees that inner beauty is paramount and that outward beauty is represented in many diverse ways.”
Semra’s writing assignment isn’t the first time her body-positive attitude and appreciation of different forms of beauty has shown itself, Young says: “Recently, she and I were walking through a parking lot and she noticed a larger woman wearing a long floral dress that had some stains and tears. Semra loudly declared, ‘Mom, she’s a princess!’ A huge smile appeared on the woman’s face. I love that my daughter saw the same lady we all did, but chose to see the beauty…the princess.” An important part of Young’s strategy? Modeling the behaviors and attitudes she’d like Semra to embrace. “Even on days when my jeans feel tight, or my hair seems frizzy, I am cognizant of my words and selective of what I choose to say — I wear my swimsuit to the pool and swim with my daughter even on days when I feel ‘extra curvy,’” Young says. “Working with children for many years in an education setting, I am all too aware of the pressures young ladies face as they grow up. I hope that she will have the courage to see beyond others’ perceptions and the confidence to believe in herself. If it feels like you’re always hearing about how many young girls hate their bodies and often start dieting before they reach middle school, take Semra’s drawing as a symbol of hope — very cute (and artistically savvy) hope.