How’s your self-esteem? Would you consider yourself super confident? Medium? Or totally not? What do you love about yourself? What do you dislike about yourself?
I posed these questions to a group of young girls between the ages of 5 – 17 at our most recent Girls Empowerment Event, and the answers were at times heart-breaking. While some of the younger girls could give me a list of twenty things they loved about themselves, including I’m beautiful, smart, a great runner, I clean my room, I’m a good listener and a good friend, others couldn’t think of one reason they loved themselves. And as the girls got older, the answers took such a negative spin.
“I’m not popular.”
“How do I get better at being less ugly?”
As someone who has always been sure of herself, I try my best to tell those around me how much I love them and WHY. This session brought me to tears. I wanted to run over to these girls and give them a huge hug and tell them that they are perfect. They are beautiful, smart, funny, kind and fun to be around. I wanted to tell them that before puberty their bodies start to change and they start to put on a couple of extra pounds because they are getting ready to grow and become a woman. And that no matter what size they are they are beautiful. It broke my heart to hear these girls think so little of themselves, but the reality of the situation is that most girls’ self-esteem is absolute crap.
According to a recent survey commissioned by the Girls Guides of Canada, 55% of females said the need to look and act a certain way, as reinforced to them by societal expectations, has negatively affected their self-esteem. More than half of girls, 56%, also said that they’re getting mixed messages on the way they are “supposed” to act and dress. One in five girls surveyed said they feel the need to be skinny while also having curves.
The ways in which girls are told to act, and how that influences their behaviour, is just as troubling:
- 59% of girls feel the need to act in a certain way because society tells them to.
- 30% of girls didn’t take up a sport because it’s not traditionally associated with women.
- 24% of girls don’t want to pursue a career of their choice because of unfair pay-differenced between men and women.
- 16% of girls pretend not to like science and math-related subjects out of fear of being ostracized.
Does this not sound unreal to you? Pretending to not like science and math because being smart isn’t cool? Or the idea of feeling so conflicted about being both skinny and having a booty – can’t we all relate to that one? Imagine that issue as your 12-year-old self?!?
So what can we do? I wish we could follow young girls around and give them boosts throughout the day on how amazing they are. And when bullies start in we can stand up for them and make them feel loved and so sure of themselves. I wish we could erase any doubt or negative self-talk from their worlds and fill it with confidence. I wish we could start these conversations with them when they are first learning to talk…so we don’t wait until they are 16 to find out how they feel about themselves. And so we don’t have to wait until we are 40 to realize that we should love ourselves – all parts and pieces – that we should do it from day one.
All of these wishes can’t be done overnight, but we DO have a starting block. We have created a tool for parents and teachers to start the conversations with their kids – girls AND boys – about their self-confidence. It is called the Confidence Workbook, and we are so proud of this piece of work.
The Confidence Workbook has ten exercises for kids to do either on their own, with a friend, parent or teacher to start looking at their confidence. We ask questions and relate to the kids with real life examples. We talk about negative self-talk. We play games, we find reasons for them to love themselves, we determine who makes them feel really good and who maybe doesn’t. The Confidence Workbook can be purchased online here for only $16, and we will email you this wonderful e-book within 48 hours.
We have had a terrific response from media with regards to our Workbook. Here are a few links for you to check out: