As I scrolled through my social media feed last week I quickly became transfixed by a deluge of images that flooded my screen. I am well aware that many girls only post highlights of their lives, but what concerned me was the empty eyes peering back at me. I clicked on one profile only to be bombarded by image after image of the same young woman made up from countless makeup tutorials , outfit changes, sultry and sexy poses- likely hoping for positive reinforcement by way of likes and comments from her peers. Girls linking arms, draped sexily over each other as if posing for a lingerie advertisement, not a birthday celebration.
‘You’re soooo hot!’
‘I F’*n want you!!’
The comments became more risqué and laden with expletives - common banter between teen and twenty something girls in many social media circles. It’s how they ‘compliment’ each other.
And the more I scrolled through this daily record of a girl’s life, it hit me that, seeing the same images over and over, with little variation or diversity, can give the viewer a distorted view of the girls' worth and value.
Where is evidence that she is strong and capable, that she can take on challenges and rise above adversity? That she is persistent, strong willed, kind hearted and loyal? I wanted to take that girl by the hand and tell her gently ‘You are so amazing. You are not defined by the media’s toxic messages that tell you that your body is your currency!
How do we raise our girls within this environment of critique and in a culture that encourages narcissism? How do we teach our girls that to be strong and smart and loyal and kind is just as appealing?
Foster Solid Connections
We have all been created to live in community. Strong and healthy friendships are paramount to helping girls through difficult times. Encouraging our girls to develop and nurture positive and supportive friendships, strong connections within various social groups are an important part of developing their support network. It is also helpful to identify mentors or other healthy role models that can guide her- someone they can turn whether that be an aunt, grandmother, sports coach or older student.
Causes Beyond themselves
Fostering the idea of serving others and working with causes beyond themselves gives girls a focus beyond their own immediate circumstances. Whether this involves sponsoring a child in a developing nation, collecting books and resources to send to a school that has been lost to bushfires or knitting scarves for displaced people. It also can serve to help girls gain a better perspective on their own life and circumstances. They can further develop important skills whilst being involved in greater causes, including organisations skills, communication, public speaking and event management.
Encourage Healthy Risk Taking
Girls often feel the pressure to do everything perfectly, which can often lead to them being less likely to take on new challenges and experiences. Fear of failure can be a block for so many young people. We should encourage our girls to step out of their comfort zone, into her courage zone occasionally. We learn more about ourselves and our capabilities when we try new things. Share your own experiences and the various challenges you have taken on and achieved.
Help them identify their SPARK!
We need to help our daughters identify the things that bring her joy and feed her passions, build and strengthen resilience. When they are faced with tough times, turning to their interests and passions are often a great source of comfort for children. Ask her what she loves to do when she has free time? Encourage her to broaden her hobbies and interests. She might try a few different pursuits until she finds one that ignites that spark- whether that be dancing, horse riding, writing or playing a musical instrument.
Finally, suggest if she chooses to use social media, to flood her posts with snapshots of her real, incredible, capable, self.Images of her running that cross country race, on her way to work in her daggy uniform, getting muddy on camp, putting up her tent, splashing in the ocean, riding her unicycle (yes, I have seen this!), in her PJ’s penning a new song, eating pizza, dancing in the rain and living her life with passion and purpose.
Let’s work together to raise strong and confident girls who strive for qualities of strength, determination, resilience and passion as indicators of their true value and worth.
Sharon Witt has been immersed in Teen World for over two decades in her role as a Secondary Educator, Author and Presenter to adolescents and their parents around the country. She also runs regular workshops within schools, parent evenings and youth events She speaks regularly on TV and radio about issues facing our children and is the author of the best selling Teen Talk and Girlwise series of books and is a proud ambassador of Collective Shout!
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