How can we empower girls to love themselves?

 empower girls

As a mother to a daughter – albeit a three year old daughter –  I am already worried about what her future holds. Girls everywhere are suffering from crippling self-esteem issues – they are haunted by negativity surrounding body, sex and relationships brought upon them by media and peer pressure. It’s clear that we need to empower girls to love themselves again. But how?

Cue the inspiring Beautiful Project – and the book from which it is born, Beautiful – to burst into our lives with the sole mission of transforming the lives of young women across the globe by empowering them to love themselves and speak their truths. Today I am honoured to interview Naomi Katz, Director and Founder of Beautiful Project and author of Beautiful: Being an Empowered Young Woman to get to the bottom of exactly that.

empower girls

What are some of the biggest challenges facing girls and young women today?

We are living in a time where women’s beauty is a treated as a commodity.  Women are being objectified and sexualized in ways that have a very significant impact on self-esteem and the ability of each of us to value her own voice.

Furthermore, today women enjoy opportunities that my grandmothers probably never dreamed would be possible for women. However with that, we have lost the value in the difference that defines men and women.  We have forgotten to celebrate that which makes us unique as women; we have learned, at least for the past two generations, that being equal means being the same.

As a result, we have fallen short in the way that we educate girls, particularly about beauty and sexuality.  We need to focus on giving girls specific tools and skills to support them as they define themselves as adults.

And what, in their hearts, are they really and truly worried about?

Too often, young women are deeply concerned with fitting in, being accepted by their peers.  I think this is true for all of us, but in my experience, these feelings are especially strong in adolescence, and are intensified by the culture of objectification and sexualization.

One of my greatest fears for girls and young women is the impact of social media – how serious is this?

The impact of social media on girls cannot be overstated.

It is really hard to live in a world that is so heavily based on images, ones that often do not reflect who we truly are.  And then we judge these images – and measure our popularity by how many likes we have.  The culture of sexualization and judgement is cruel and teaches girls to behave in ways that often make them uncomfortable.  How can we expect girls to feel good about themselves when they feel like they have to be something they are not, to be sexual even if they aren’t ready?  And this only adds to an already existing energy of competition that is naturally present among adolescent girls.

When I was young, I, like many girls, dealt with difficult social dynamics among my circle of friends. This is simply a part of adolescence, and because of girls’ innate social intelligence, these difficult dynamics often include painful manipulations and exclusion.  It’s important to rest from these kinds of tensions.  When I was in middle school and high school, I would come home at the end of the day and I would have a break from social stress.  This break simply does not exist anymore.  The invention of smartphones has led to constant engagement with social media, which, for adolescents means constant coping with social stresses and the pressure to fit in.

Additionally, it is so difficult for all of us – especially youth – to remember that what we see on another person’s profile isn’t the whole picture of their lives.  The contribution social media has made to girls’ self-objectification and their confusion about this – thinking that it empowers them – is shocking. Again, the impact of social media on self confidence cannot be overestimated.

empower girls

In terms of girls and body image, what can parents do to help?

Consider – how do we talk about our bodies?  How do we talk about ourselves? The language we use has great power.  It is really useful to be honest and clear with our youth about how the media impacts the way all of us see ourselves, and to remind them that we decide for ourselves how to define beauty – and that it is something we each carry inside ourselves. It is equally important for us to find a place of peace – each of us within ourselves – and accept our bodies.  This will have a direct impact on our youth.

The way we feel at home has a huge impact on the way we feel about ourselves.  When we feel safe, we feel comfortable and can express ourselves.   When we feel loved, we learn to love ourselves.

On the flip side, when we feel judged, we learn to judge ourselves.  Our children need encouragement and support to help them cultivate their self-confidence.  At the same time, boundaries help them understand their own limits – an awareness they need in order to navigate complicated adolescent relationships and develop meaningful friendships that will nourish them.

What is absolutely vital in raising girls and young women with strong self esteem? And what changes does society need to make to ensure this happens?

We are all together in this mission of raising the next generation.  We are all responsible for the health and well-being of all the children growing up today.  When we model self esteem, we have a huge impact on anyone who sees us, especially kids.  When we express love and compassion, we impact all those around us.  When we all take on the responsibility of collectively educating our children, we create a society where all children feel empowered, because they understand that they are important.

In terms of peer pressure, it seems worse than ever – what can we do to help girls caught up in this?

As is true for all of us, when we feel good about ourselves, we are less concerned with how others see us.  For young people, this means that they are also able to maintain clarity when they make decisions and are less likely to be influenced by peer pressure.

It is really important to talk to our girls about decision-making, and particularly with regard to honoring themselves in sexual situations.  When girls feel strong in themselves, they remember to honor their bodies, to expect respect from sexual partners, to speak their own needs.  Maintaining an environment of openness and trust will allow girls to speak with elders about their own decisions.

In that vein, it is extremely important to help our girls connect with elders who are not simply their parents, especially women elders.

empower girls

If there was only one thing you could say to a girl growing up in today’s world it would be….

Love yourself.  This is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

And finally, all girls are beautiful because……

Beauty is a feeling that we carry inside ourselves.  It’s up to us to cultivate this beauty and draw it out.

***Beautiful – Being An Empowered Young Woman is available on Amazon here.***

 For more information on the Beautiful Project see the website here and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Picture credit: Designed by Freepik

34 comments

  1. My oldest is 17 and the last five or six years have been difficult to say the least. Self-esteem and a social media addiction certainly play a big part in her problems. It leads me to be very worried about the five year old and trying harder to establish a strong base with her
    jeremy@thirstydaddy recently posted…Little SnitchMy Profile

  2. Every day I ask my little lady “whose beautiful?” and she replies “me Mummy”…
    I want to instil her beauty within from an early age as god help me when she gets on the internet and is bombarded with images from the media.

  3. Yep, my little one is nearly four and I’m worried too. I posted about the Children’s Society report yesterday and last week which said that one in three girls are unhappy with their looks 🙁 It’s scary and serious and I think carefully now how I respond to questions and what I say. Thanks so much for this detailed look at the issues. Xxx #coolmumclub
    Rainbowsaretoobeautiful recently posted…WonderfulWednesday: How to talk to your daughter about her body – @huffpost @childrensocietyMy Profile

  4. My daughter is 3 years old too and I am forever worrying about this issue. I would hate to think that a little girl so beautiful (on the inside and outside) would have image issues. I am also aware of how I portray myself too. Although I am self conscious in my own ways I would NEVER let on to my daughter of this, because that is just teaching her that it’s OK to self criticize. I tell her she’s a beautiful person every single day and she knows I mean every single word. #coolmumclub

  5. I don’t think that the fight for equality has negatively contributed to self esteem issues in girls. I imagine it would be hard to have a feeling of self worth when society sees you as second best. I think the downward turn in self esteem probably has more to do with the easier access to media. #coolmumclub

  6. It genuinely scares me, the pressure on girls now a days – with social media and celebrity “perfection”. It’s wonderful that there are women out there who want to help and empower girls this way – what an amazing influence xx #coolmumclub
    Fi – Beauty Baby and Me recently posted…Feeling GratefulMy Profile

  7. This is something I worry about. We’ve talked about social media and the dangers of it, I am cautious in how I critique myself in front of her. As mums I think we need to keep our girls as safe and informed as possible while encouraging them to be happy in their own skin instead of striving for some unrealistic ide. Thanks for hosting #coolmumclub
    Fran Back With a Bump recently posted…Date Night In CambridgeMy Profile

  8. Its crazy the things young girls and boys have to deal with now, I worry just as much over my boy growing up and his actions towards girls and himself etc as I do my little girl. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about a phone call I received from my boys school about his “weight check” they did in school and how he was classed as obese!! I refused to talk about it and told her my thoughts on the whole process of putting a 5 year old in a weight bracket!! I’m not letting my girl be weighed when she starts school! Its so, so hard growing up now with the pressure everywhere to look “Instagram” beautiful!!
    kerry recently posted…Never ending laundry basket!!My Profile

  9. It’s so true. I think it’s important to recognise that being equal doesn’t mean being the same and not just men/women with each other. In social circles it’s easy to think off yourself lower than others because you’re different to them. Addressing how girls feel about themselves needs to go hand in hand with respect for each other. #coolmumclub

  10. I see two extremes going on in the world today. On one hand it is becoming over superficial, judgmental and selfish. And on the other side, the rising hope of raising self-awarness, self-belief, self-confidence. I hope, for the sake of our kids that the second wins. And I coompletely agree, home is where our kids, not just daughters (because boys are on the display as well), feel safe, accepted and relaxed. Telling them every day they are worth it, we are proud of them, they are beautiful. Thank you for this awarness-raising post, Talya! #coolmumclub

  11. Thank you for this – I am so determined to ensure my daughter is empowered in herself as I made many a terrible choice growing up due to a lack of confidence. Although my blog might be joking about baby weight, I’m NEVER mentioning bad body images around her! #coolmumclub

  12. As a boy mom, I think it is equally important to teach respect for women, equality, and how harmful objectification is. I find that even men who seem to “get it” aren’t fully aware of what qualifies as objectification and harmful because it’s so ingrained in society and in advertising in particular. Great post! #coolmumclub

  13. I do think that much of empowering women is celebrating what makes us women, and that does have to mean accepting that men and women are different in ways. Equality isn’t about everyone being the same, it’s about opportunities being available to anyone who wants, and is willing to work, for them. Equality and empowerment for me don’t mean behaving like a man. Love this #CoolMumClub

  14. Oh, Talya, this made me so tearful. I think it must be because I have two teenage girls really going through the pressures of social media and being a teenager at the moment – it is disgusting and it so so hard to manage as a parent. There is no switch off – it is a constant and there is no escape. I love Naomi’s words around feeling comfortable and safe at home – that gave me real hope. We have dealt with so many issues as a family and they have all stemmed from social media. This is such a great post. I’m buying the book for sure and looking further into the project! Thank you for sharing such a worthwhile and interesting read my lovely xx #coolmumclub
    justsayingmum recently posted…Bloggers’ Cafe Episode 3!My Profile

  15. YES! A million times over! I always said I would let my girls be who they wanted to be by which I meant I wouldn’t enforce gender stereotypes on them. I wasn’t hugely girly and you hear so much about feminism and equal rights it is almost becoming a bad thing to want to be girly and like pink. Well I have ended up with two of the girliest girls around! And we embrace it fully. I really hope in year to come I can help them realise that what they see on the outside, on the internet, isn’t the whole story. The great thing about blogging is you can try and dispel this myth as much as possible but unless you spend 24/7 with someone they will never know everything. That is a fact that is easily forgotten when you are feeling vulnerable and inadequate.
    #coolmumclub
    Kirsty – Winnettes recently posted…Baking with Children Guest Post – Blissful DomesticationMy Profile

  16. Social media does scare the hell out of me to be honest as I know how much I would’ve been obsessed with it had it existed when I was a teenager. As Naomi says, there’s no escape once you get home and I think this is such bad news for bullying…I think as parents today we do have more of a difficult task in making sure that our girls love themselves and value what’s important in life over selfies and social likes…#coolmumclub x
    Mum in Brum recently posted…Easy ways to update your home for springMy Profile

  17. I’ve just finished writing a book on bringing up girls who can boss it, so this post really resonated with me, especially as I have 5 girls to navigate around these issues. I’ll look further into this project. Thank you for sharing. Alison x #coolmumclub
    Alison (MadHouseMum) recently posted…So predictableMy Profile

  18. Loved this interview and shared it on my Facebook page – this is such an important topic and I often wonder how I will convey this message to my daughter x #coolmumclub

  19. Well my lovelies it sounds like we are all on the same page I think the first step is being mindful of the challenges which it certainly sounds like we all are. My the mama force be with you all for what’s ahead xoxo

  20. As a mum to two boys I worry about their self esteem and body image too. It doesn’t seem to be limited to females these days. On my part I’m determined to raise two feminists who respect women, it starts now, if I hear either of them say “girls can’t…” there’s trouble!
    #coolmumclub

  21. A while ago I, for some reason, looked at the Kardashian’s Instagram and within seconds I was furious. They are so focused on image and looking good it made me sick! For women who know they are powerful role models I found it to be so irresponsible to parade on their SM in the way they do. We need better role models for the young girls growing up today. #CoolMumClub
    Harriet – Coffee & Bubbles recently posted…Nappy Nemesis – The Eight Types Of Poo-Filled Nappies I Won’t MissMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge