As an adolescent or teenager, body image stereotypes are all around, infiltrating bathroom gossip and passed notes. Girls in particular tend to focus on weight or body image (though that's not to say boys don't fall prey to body pressures!). At a young age, the media and pop culture feed us the idea that you must be skinny in order to be attractive; or that you need to look like this celebrity and not that celebrity.

These body concerns probably affect your cheerleading squad too, in one way or another. Maybe one of your own teammates is struggling with her body image. Cheerleaders may even experience more pressures to be at a socially accepted weight because of the myth that all cheerleaders are skinny. Let's take a look at how we can bust this myth and why we need to prove it wrong.

Skinny  ‰  Fit
Part of the myth evolves from the general idea that, since athletes are fit and in shape, they must be skinny. Being skinny doesn't mean you're necessarily healthy or fit, and being healthy and in shape doesn't mean you're skinny. Every single person's body is different, based on a bunch of factors like your DNA and genes.

It's crucial that people, especially teens, know that being skinny doesn't mean you're in shape, and vice versa. Being in shape is what everyone, but especially athletes, should strive for "“ not being skinny. While yes, working out can cause you to lose a few pounds, but you will probably gain muscle weight. Don't base your looks or your "health" on the number the scale labels you as.

Cheerleaders Come In All Shapes and Sizes
Like other athletes and humans, cheerleaders are diverse! They have different skin tones, hair, personalities, heights, and weights. Just because someone doesn't consider them "skinny" doesn't mean they're not athletic, in shape, and fit. If they're on the squad, participating in routines, they're clearly not hindered by their weight! Some girls are naturally skinny and some aren't. Why yes, it's true that flyers generally must be small and lightweight, that doesn't mean you have to be tiny to be on the team. Then there are bases and spotters who have to be strong, especially in their legs (and strength isn't defined by weight).

Why The Myth Hurts
This myth is hurtful for a few different reasons. First, it makes cheerleading seem exclusive, which in turn makes your team seem intimidating and possibly judgmental. Girls who don't think they're "skinny" may not try out for the team because they assume they won't make it.

The myth can also put a lot of pressure on cheerleaders and make them think they need to be "skinny" in order to be a good cheerleader. This could cause someone to have an eating disorder or a negative body image and low self-confidence. As we all know, cheerleaders have to be in top shape to last through an energetic routine. If someone is weak because she's on an extreme diet or isn't working out because she doesn't want to look "muscle-y," she might put her, or a teammate's, safety at risk.

As a current or aspiring cheerleader, you shouldn't ever think or feel that you must be skinny in order to be a cheerleader. Everyone's body is different and your only body concern should be your health.
Have you heard this myth before? Do you feel any pressure to be a certain size? If so, how do you handle those pressures?