By Lauren Linhard – firstname.lastname@example.org
Livia Haines looked down at the table and blushed as her friends waited for her to answer the question – What is something you like about yourself? At 14 years old, she and her friends, Katie Mauldin, 15, and Baleigh Geiman, 14, have spent the past school year trying to find their place as high school freshmen.
“Well, I guess I like my eyes,” Haines said, looking at her girlfriends for approval, “And I’m trustworthy, which I think is important.”
The other girls were just as hesitant to discuss what they were confident about in themselves, even as the things they disliked came so easily to them – their skin, body size, lack of athletic abilities.
“Everyone has to have a big butt at our age, but then you’re called fat if you have a big butt and big boobs,” said Katie, who admitted not liking how skinny she is. “It feels like any flaw, no matter how small, we are judged on.”
This was the conversation over afternoon coffee during their winter break, and sadly, they are not alone. Studies show a woman’s confidence peaks at 8 years old, and then it’s all downhill from there.
In high school, seven in 10 high school girls believe they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, be it looks, smarts or relationships. The trend doesn’t stop there – 58 percent of college-aged girls feel pressured to be a certain weight. Even as adults, about 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies.
“We’re so young and already feel like we have so many expectations,” Baleigh said. “It’s stereotypical, but girls really have a harder time.”
The question is, how can this downward spiral of self esteem be eliminated? The answer: The women of today have to show the women of tomorrow that it’s okay to love themselves. Here’s how:
Set The Example.
Be a role model of body positivity. Instead of commenting on how that cupcake is going right to your thighs, talk about how it’s a well-deserved treat. Going shopping with a girl who looks up to you? Comment on how the dress brings out your eyes, the boots make your butt look great or the hat looks adorable with your curls. Teach her how to focus on the positive.
Get Her Involved.
Confidence also comes from feeling good. Encourage those young ladies in your life to try different activities and discover new talents. Support her as she works toward goals and accomplishments, and tell her you’re proud anyway if she fails. Let her know her passion inspires you.
Have The Hard Conversations.
There is no way to avoid exposure to the expectations society and media sets for girls. Instead of shying away or dismissing it, make a point to ask your daughters, cousins, nieces, and sisters how these things make them feel. Sympathize with what they are going through and share your own stories.
Redirect Your Praise.
Rather than focusing compliments on looks and style, focus on what she does and creates and contributes to the world. She isn’t just beautiful, she’s smart and witty. Try matching every physical compliment you give with two non-appearance based compliments.
It’s never to early to start helping girls younger than you find their confidence. Here is what our young coffee lovers had to say to the next class of freshmen girls:
Katie: Don’t get wrapped up in boys. You are more than that.
Livia: Focus on school, but make sure to have fun too. It’s about balance.
Baleigh: Be a good person and engage with different types of people.