“Five to ten million adolescent girls and women struggle with eating disorders and borderline eating conditions.”
“Among children in grades 1 – 3, 42% want to be thinner.”
“An average US woman is 5’4″ tall weighing 140 pounds; the average US model is 5’11″ weighing 117 pounds!”
“7 in 10 Girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way including their looks, performance i school and relationship with friends and family members.”
“75% of girls with low self-esteem report engaging in negative activities such as eating disorders, cutting, smoking, drinking when feeling bad about themselves.”
“57% of girls have mothers who criticizes her looks”
“Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves”
“Only 4% of Women Worldwide Consider Themselves Beautiful”
Scary statistics, right? Unfortunately, they are a true reflection of the society and life that we expect young girls to lead. Fortunately, they don’t have to be true forever.
Last night, I was lucky enough to be involved in a presentation by a group of girls from ages 11-17. The night was a culmination of a six-week girls’ group that I co-facilitated. The goal of the group was to foster growth and self esteem in these young girls’ lives.
Each girl stood in front of her family and friends and, through an artistic medium, reflected on a quote she chose that inspired her. Girl after girl expressed her gratitude to have such a safe space where she was able to speak freely about her feelings and fears and to feel good about herself. Though I loved that we were able to provide a safe space for them, I had to wonder why we were the only “safe space” available.
It is a scary world out there for a kid. Every time I walk into a high school, I thank anyone who may be listening that I am no longer a young student. The realities for young girls – in school and life – are terrifying.
The perfection that we expect them to obtain, the double-edged sword of good girl/bad girl that they face everyday has to be exhausting. We as a society ask them to be smart, polite and always thin.
As the girls took their turns and stood in front of the microphone, they told one another how much they loved each other and that they were all beautiful “on the inside and out.” Yet earlier in the evening when I asked them each to pose for a photo, 75% of them made a negative comment about their appearances.
I wanted them to believe those things they said about themselves. I want to believe those same things about myself. And yet, no matter how many times I am told otherwise, I think of myself as unattractive.
Part of it is the constant onslaught of media and the appearance of women on TV or in ads. Part of it is that no matter how many times a person says something positive about me, I just can’t seem to believe it. But why?
I love that we provided a safe space for the girls to feel beautiful and happy and fulfilled for the evening.
I hate that a majority of them feel that they don’t have a space outside of the group where they can be as honest and safe. I hate that they will continue to think negatively of themselves, and I hate that we are not creating a safer world for them every moment of every day.
Do me a favor? Watch a Dove video and feel angry for yourself and other women.
And then find another girl or woman and tell her the same thing. Tell her to tell someone, too. Talk to your daughters and sisters and friends.
Eventually, I can only hope some of it will sink in for us, and we will see ourselves as all of those things.
I swear to you, as soon as we do, we will rule the world.