I was talking to my friend the other day, lets call her Gretchen, and she told me about a book, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher, PhD. It’s non fiction, a collection of case studies organized into sections based on themes that are highly pertinent to an adolescent girl’s life and development.
Gretchen told me that the book was very eyeopening. The girls referenced in the book are real, going through challenges most, if not all, young girls go through at some point in their adolescence. However, these girls are often left feeling isolated and alone in their struggles, thinking that no one else could possibly know what they are going through.
This made me think about my own youth and how, at the time, I remember feeling like I was the only one with whatever specific problem I had. And then I thought about how to convey the fact that this isolation, this I’m the only one who understands me feeling is so common and relatable.
How does one try to boost a young girl’s self esteem without just telling them You’re awesome! Believe me.
1. Confidence in myself. If I want a young girl to be confident in herself, I myself must be confident and lead by example. Just by taking care of myself, not putting myself down, and embracing my own body type, I can show girls that every woman has something special to be celebrated and be proud about.
2. Speak wisely. Young girls look up to women whether they realize it or not. Therefore, I need to be cautious when commenting on other women’s appearances, both positively and negatively. I want to set a good example, showing that women should definitely not be putting other women down, as well as not encouraging any existing complex or insecurity a girl may have. Also, being aware that if I complement another woman, to make sure her physical appearance is not the only thing I’m paying attention to.
3. Be there. This is more geared toward a close relationship between mother and daughter, sisters, or best friends, but every woman can use a shoulder to lean on. By telling your friend, sibling, daughter that you love them and are there for them every day, it provides an indispensable feeling of security for a girl who is desperately looking for places to fit in in the chaotic world around us.
4. Empower her, empower yourself. The struggle to “fit in” for a young girl can be so trying, she can lose the passions she once considered dear to her heart. By encouraging young girls to pursue hobbies and interests of theirs, instead of trying to align with the mainstream, you can instill a sense of individuality and empowerment in a girl that can benefit her for the rest of her life.
5. Be real. Instill a sense of realism when it comes to media images and mainstream trends. By letting young girls know that what Hollywood shows as the ideal woman is not necessarily attainable or realistic, and that is okay.