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A Guide to Self-Esteem
for All Young Girls Not Living
on a Deserted Island
CAROLYN M
C
MAHON
“Be yourself,
everyone else is taken
Oscar Wilde
viiCONTENTS
THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR 1
YOUR POWER 3
What No Book Can Do 6
Two Really Bad Words 8
How Mean Are You!? 11
What the Bleep Happened? 15
Measuring Up 21
BEAUTY — THROUGH TIME
AND ACROSS OCEANS 27
rough Time 29
Across Oceans 33
Mauritania 33
Karo Tribe of Ethiopia 34
Maori 35
Chinese Foot-binding 35
Your World 38
MARKETING MADNESS 41
e Secrets of Selling 44
You’re Worth a Billion 48
Advertising Tricks 50
e Bombardment 50
Creating and Using Your Insecurities 52
Overpromising 55
e Model 60
e First Side of the Equation:
e Image 60
eyre So in 60
ey Always Look So Perfect 61
e Second Side of the Equation: You 65
1. Understand What You Are
Seeing and How It Makes
You Feel 67
2. Be the Best You Can Be 67
3. Let Go 68
4. Celebrate the Beauty in Others
(It Doesnt Take Away from
Your Own) 69
CONTENTS
FRIENDS, FRIENEMIES
AND FOES 73
When Friends Hurt 76
1. Like All  ings, Friendships
Change Over Time 77
2.  e Truth Can Hurt 80
3. Sometimes People Are just Stupid 80
4. When Bad Days Happen to
Good People 83
5. But Sometimes Something Bad
Is just the Beginning and You
Need to Cut and Run 83
“So What Power Do I Have Exactly?” 89
11 Tips to Help You  rough 90
1. You Are Not Alone 90
2. Its Hard, but Sometimes You just
Have to Walk Away 90
3. Dont be Afraid of Spending Time
with Yourself 92
4. Know that Labels Arent People 94
5. Take a Break from the Drama
Once in a While 95
6. Remember, Stu Happens 96
7. Expand Your World 99
8. Its Okay to Have a Bad Day
Once in a While 101
9. Dont Forget to Laugh at Yourself
Now and  en 101
10. You Know Yourself and thats
What Counts Most 102
11. Be Who You Expect Others to Be 102
Boys, Boys, Boys 104
e Power ey Have 107
e Adults in Your Life 116
Family 120
TECHNOLOGY, THE MEDIA
& YOU 123
And the World Expands Despite
Ourselves 124
e Pressures and Pitfalls of Posting
Your Life 126
1. e Pressure to Be Perfect 127
2. e Over Exposure 129
3. e Never-Endingness of It 130
ree Quick Ways to Fall Victim to the
Internet 132
1. Believing It Is All True 134
2. Believing a Small Group Is the
Whole World 135
3. Assuming the Motives of Others
Are Always Good 137
viii
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
It All Leaves a Mark 138
Constant Criticism 140
Distorted Images of Reality 141
CAUTION: DANGER AHEAD 143
Fat Fixation 145
e Fat Facts 147
Self-Harm 150
Jealousy and Envy 152
Attention-Seeking Behavior 158
People Pleasing 161
THERE IS A LIGHT 165
Take Care of What Mother Nature
Gave You 167
Move that Butt! 167
e Stu You Eat 168
Mind Over Matter 171
Maximize Your Assets 173
Don’t Ignore the Good 178
Be Strong 180
Pay It Forward 183
Give Yourself Time 184
Endnotes 186
e  ank You Page 188
ixCONTENTS
viii
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
1THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR
How do you feel about yourself? What do you
think when you look in the mirror? Does it depend
on the day?
Seven out of every ten girls believe that they
are not good enough or do not measure up in some
way.
1
Seven out of ten girls look in the mirror and
arent happy with what they see or with who they
are. Are you one of those seven?
Being a girl today can be hard. As a grown up,
I can tell you that we have all had to deal with body
image issues, jealousies, insecurities and raging hor-
mones. But my generation never had to deal with
the constant, over the top, bombardment of media
images glamorizing an unattainable perfection.
Nor did we have to cope with the 24/7 world of the
Internet and cell phones, where everyone is expected
to be on all the time, and where anyone and every-
one feels entitled to judge and report on your every
move, which, by the way, is recorded for all time.
You are not only exposed to many more inu-
ences, but also at a younger and younger age. Add
to this all the classic issues of growing up and you
can see how seven in ten girls may believe they are
just not good enough.
It can be a tough world to navigate through
and many young girls are nding it dicult. Girls
just like you. e rst thing to know is that, clearly,
you are not alone. ere is nothing that you have
said or thought that other girls are not also saying
or thinking.
ere is nothing wrong with you; you are not
a freak. ere is no complaint that you have about
your body that thousands of other girls dont have.
You are not the only one who thinks she is too fat
or too tall or hates the kink in her hair or the freck-
les on her face or the shade of her skin. You are not
the only girl who is being ignored by the boys or,
worse, being criticized by them. You are not the
only girl who feels isolated, overwhelmed or just
plain lost.
When you lay your head on your pillow at
night and the tears ow from sadness or anger or
confusion, know that there are a lot of other girls
with wet pillows as well. is is not meant to say
that your problems are not unique or important.
ey are unique to you and important. Anything
that makes you doubt yourself is very important.
Its definitely a tougher world to navigate
through, but not impossible. And the truth is, you
really have no choice. is is your world. You need
to nd the strength to not only navigate through,
but stand up and be yourself — be the amazing
person that you are. No more compromises, no
more self-criticism, no more tears. Life is short and
you only get one, but luckily you have a lot of power
to choose how you want to live yours.
THE GIRL IN
THE MIRROR
YOUR
POWER
4
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
Lets start with a truth.
There is a lot in your
life you do not control. You
dont get to choose your height.
You cant decide your skin color or the
size of your feet. You dont pick your family or
the circumstances into which you are born. The
truth is, some kids get blessed with being born into
a safe and loving environment, while others are not
so fortunate. It is not a child’s choice or fault to be
born into a life of violence or poverty. It is not a
childs choice or fault to be born ill or alone. ere
are things in life a person does not get any choice
in at all. Some of these things can make life very
hard, while some of these things dont need to.
As girls, we tend to add an extra burden to our
lives. We tend to hold ourselves up to a notion of
perfection that
is ever changing and,
in reality, doesnt exist at all.
We allow the super cial things
in our lives, like our height or our
weight, to undermine our confi-
dence and prevent us from believing
in ourselves and everything that we
can be. We allow the world to in u-
ence our feelings about ourselves in
ways that we dont even recognize.
We miss opportunities or fun activities
because we are not comfortable with ourselves.
We compare ourselves constantly to those around
us instead of embracing who we are as individuals.
In short, we are often our own worst enemies.
Think back to when you were a toddler. You
never felt ugly or stupid. You were just happy to be
fed and dry, and plopped in front of the TV for a
little Teletubbies. So whats going on now? How did
it all change?
“I feel ugly
and stupid because
the guy I’ve had a
crush on for two
years told me I am
ugly and stupid.”
5YOUR POWER
You might think its obvious where your feel-
ings are coming from. “I feel ugly and stupid
because
the guy I’ve had a crush on for two years told me
I am ugly and stupid.” Okay, fair enough, thats
pretty obvious.
But how come you dont just tell that guy to
take a  ying leap? Why do you assume that what
he says is correct? And more to the point, why do
you even care?
No one likes to be put down. No matter how
con dent you are, its still a jolt. But if you auto-
matically accept that guy’s opinion instead of just
thinking that he is a creep for saying it, then some-
thing else is going on. He has the power because
he is playing on the insecurities and the poor self-
image that you already have about yourself. Its
time to take some of that
power back.
You may not have a
choice over everything in
your life, but you do
have the choice over
how you see yourself. It is time to realize that you
are not de ned by how you look or an embarrass-
ing moment in your life. You are not de ned by
whether you are popular with the boys at
school, or invited to a particular party.
You are de ned by you. You are de ned
by the messages you tell yourself. You
may not have the power over all
that life hands you, but you have
this power. Use it.
Sometimes, no matter how strong you try to
be, the external pressures of life are too
much. We can’t always make changes on our
own. If you are in a bad situation where you
are being hurt or thinking of hurting yourself,
you need to reach out. Tell a trusted adult,
tell a teacher, tell a good friend. Shout it
from the rooftops if you need someone to
hear you because you deserve to
be heard. And don’t
listen to anyone
who tells you that
you aren’t worth it, even if you
are thinking that yourself. Life
can be so much more than
you are experiencing
right now and you
deserve a great one!
6
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
To be fair, I want to say right up front what this
book is not. is book is not a set of easy-to-follow
rules on how you should do things in order to
be happy and condent. It was not written
to tell you how to dress, how to do your
hair, what makeup you can wear or what
kind of friends you should have. In fact,
this book tries very hard not to make any
decisions for you.
First of all, you probably have enough rules in
your life as it is. You dont need any book giving you
more rules. Besides, how could one book tell you
what to do in every situation? Do you realize how
many decisions you make in a day? Probably not;
who keeps track of those things? But let me tell you,
it is a lot. What to eat, what to wear, who to sit next
to in the lunch room, what activities to get involved
in, what to buy your friend for her birthday, what
to watch on TV, which music to listen to, phew!
e list of decisions on any one day is exhausting;
over a whole lifetime it would be beyond enor-
mous. Besides, every girl is dierent. at is
what makes us all so awesome. e decisions
one girl may face will be dierent than
those faced by another girl. And the answer
that makes sense
for one girl
might not work
for another. Its
your life, so it has to
be your choice.
e purpose of this book is simply to
get you to open your eyes to the world
around you, to understand how
your world can aect the feelings
you have for yourself, the feel-
ings you have for others and the
decisions you make.
WHAT NO
BOOK CAN DO
7YOUR POWER
Right now, you have tons of inuences pres-
suring and shaping your every decision and every
thought. Some of these you might not recognize,
many more you might not understand and most
you cant control. But you can control the way you
react to them. Just as you can choose to make your-
self feel bad by always concentrating on negative
things, you can choose to make yourself feel better
about yourself by learning how to focus on the
positive things.
ink about it. If you told a girl every day of
her life that she was not good enough or pretty
enough, or thin enough, then soon she would start
to believe it. You would never do that to someone
else, because you are not mean. Yet, many girls will
do that to themselves — always telling themselves
that they fall short in some way, actually choosing
to make themselves feel bad.
Why do we do this to ourselves? ere are lots
of reasons, and hopefully you will nd some help
in
these pages to understand some of them, to help
you discover why you think and say things to your-
self that make you feel as though you are not as
good as everyone else. And maybe you will begin
to
understand how you hold the power to change
those
negative feelings so that you see yourself as the truly
amazing girl that you are.
ink about it. If you
told a girl every day of
her life that she was not good
enough or pretty enough, or
thin enough, then soon she would
start to believe it. You would never
do that to someone else, because you
are not mean. Yet, many girls will do
that to themselves — always telling
themselves that they fall short in
some way, actually choosing to make
themselves feel bad.
If you say the choice is
mine, why do you give
so much advice?
Before I printed this book, I showed it
to someone who said that it may be too
preachy because it gives a lot of advice.
The reason I do this is simple — it’s because
my daughter asked me to.
My daughter, a young girl just like you,
is also feeling all of the insecurities, anger,
sadness and confusion that may be affecting
you. So even though I talk with her a lot, I
wanted to write something that she could
refer to when she was feeling bad or sad or
mad — a thought here or a story there —
just something that may help her work
through these issues. She is the one who
asked, “You are going to give actual advice
aren’t you? You aren’t just going to say that
it is normal to feel this way? Girls need some
actual suggestions on what to do!”
So that is why there is so much advice
in here, compiled from the thoughts and
wisdom of many women. The suggestions
are ours, but the choice is always yours.
7YOUR POWER
8
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
If only my eyes were green, or my hair
was blonde. If only I was taller or
thinner (or, better yet, both). If only
I were prettier. If only, I didnt snort
when I laugh or if I hadn’t accidently
farted during that science class. en my life would
be perfect.
If only — two of life’s cruelest words. Don’t
worry, you are not alone in wishing you could
change just that one little thing about yourself.
Young and old, women throughout the ages have
wasted a lot of precious time and shed more than
a few tears because of the dreaded if onlys.
e list of if onlys can be endless. If only I didn’t
wear glasses, if only I didn’t have so many pimples,
if only I were smarter, if only I were someone else,
if only, if only, if only … then everything would be
great forever.
ere are two problems with thinking this way.
e rst is that not everything about you can
be changed, no matter how much you wish it. Some
things just have to be accepted. The longer you
spend thinking about the if onlys, the longer it will
be before you can begin accepting yourself for who
you actually are.
e second problem is that there is no end to
the if onlys. Once you slay one, another pops up like
the snakes on Medusas head. As soon as one thing
works out just the way you want it, it is not long
before you start to focus on a different obstacle,
something else that is standing in your way to
feeling truly good about yourself.
Answer this question. When was the last time
you felt truly amazing and condent about yourself
with no if onlys lurking in the back of your mind?
You are probably thinking about things you want
to change about yourself right now while reading
this — right at this very second? Seriously, stop it!
Every moment of time you spend dumping on
yourself is a moment that you have chosen to make
yourself feel bad. ink about it. You have chosen
to put your thoughts and energy into making your-
self feel bad. Doesnt that sound like an incredible
waste of time?
TWO REALLY
BAD WORDS
9YOUR POWER
I don’t know what is
wrong this year. I am
jealous or angry or sad
most of the time. My friends are
changing, the boys in my school are
changing, everything is changing.
I have always hated my looks. I
have always been taller and bigger
than all of the other girls. I always
thought that if I wasn’t so tall then
everything would be good. Now most
of the girls in my class are almost as
tall as me, but I still hate my looks.
The other girls are all so thin and
pretty, and I will never be that thin.
My mom says that I am just not
built that way and that I am beautiful
in my own right, but she doesn’t
understand. It can be really embar-
rassing to be different. Especially
when the other girls swap clothes
and stuff and I can’t because their
clothes won’t fi t me. I would give
anything if I could just look exactly
like them.
And there is other stuff this year
too. I’ve always had lots of friends
and been popular. But even that is
changing this year. My best friend
doesn’t even seem to notice if I am
around anymore. I don’t know why
things have changed so much
between us. We always used to have
a lot of fun, but now she “forgets” to
invite me to things and it makes me
feel worthless.
I’m just tired of feeling sad all of
the time. I can’t wait for this year to
be done.
— L
9YOUR POWER
I don’t know what is
wrong this year. I am
most of the time. My friends are
changing, the boys in my school are
changing, everything is changing.
I have always hated my looks. I
have always been taller and bigger
than all of the other girls. I always
10
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
11YOUR POWER
In order to think more positively about yourself,
you have to begin by being honest about the
negative
messages you tell yourself. In other words, how
mean are you — to yourself? ats right — your
messages. Not what anyone else says about you
— only what you tell yourself. What someone else
may say about you loses power if you dont believe
it yourself. Whether someone says something good
or bad about you, its what you believe and say to
yourself that aects how you feel about you.
For example, if someone tells you that “you are
the stupidest girl in the world” then you might
choose to believe that you are stupid. You might
even think you have proof that you are stupid
because you dont get “As on math tests like all your
friends. So it is easy to believe what others say — to
let them dene you and tell you how you should feel
about yourself. ats a lot of power you have just
given away.
You can keep that power for yourself. You dont
have to believe the negatives, the stereotypes or the
media messages that tell you how you should be.
You can believe the best about yourself.
Lets face it. None of us is perfect, but none of
us is simple either. We cant be dened by just one
aspect of ourselves. You may not get As in math,
but you are sure to have knowledge in many other
areas if you just open your eyes to yourself. And if
you allow yourself to see the value in all these other
things that you are, then the power that
others have to dene you will diminish.
Everyone has doubts about themselves.
Everyone has insecurities. Whether
its the shape of your eyes, the shade
of your skin, the type of house you
live in or one of a million other
things, the problem comes when you
allow someone, or something, to use
those insecurities to make you feel
bad about yourself. You are going to
fail in life because you are stupid.”
If you allow yourself to believe these neg-
atives, you will actually repeat them to yourself.
You’re right. I am stupid.” At this point, you are
actually the one saying those mean things to your-
self. Take a moment and think about it. You control
what you think about yourself.
Okay, okay. I know what you are saying right
now. “Nice thought, but it is not that easy to control
how I feel about myself. I just feel the way I feel!”
You’re right, it is not that easy. Lots of things inu-
ence how we feel about ourselves, and its not easy
to always ignore them or rise above them. Dont
worry about that right now. For now, just concen-
trate on how you actually feel about yourself. How
hard are you on yourself?
HOW MEAN
ARE YOU?
12
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
What’s Your self-talk sound like?
A good exercise is to keep track over the
course of one day, how many time you say/
think something negative to yourself. It
might be an “if only” or it might be
worded differently, but the result is the
same. It is a message that makes you feel
not particularly good about yourself.
For example:
If only I was like her.
I am fat.
If only I was allowed to wear what the
other girls wear.
I hate my hair. I wish it flowed long
and straight.
Be honest. This exercise is for no one
but you. No one else will know what you
are thinking. If you want, write down your
messages as you go through the day. Once
you see your list in writing you might be
amazed at how many negative messages
you allow yourself during a day.
Why is this important?
The actual specifics of the list are not
important. That is, what you are actually
upset about on any given day is not the
thing. Today you may be upset because
you think you are too fat. Tomorrow you
might feel like a loser because you don’t
have that new phone that all the kids
have. The point is, when you allow yourself
to view your life in negatives instead of
positives there is no end to the negatives
that you will see.
You may be shocked at how unfair you
are to yourself. I bet you will discover that
you say things to yourself that you would
never say or even think about someone
else. Yet you have no problem being that
hard on yourself.
The important thing is to see for
yourself exactly how many times you dump
on yourself in one day. If you are honest
with yourself, you will be surprised by the
amount of time you spend each day making
yourself feel bad; the amount of time you
spend thinking about the if onlys.
And consider this idea. There is only
so much time in each day. You can only
process so many thoughts and do so many
things in any given time period. The more
time you waste on negative energy, the less
time you have for positive energy to flow
through your day. This means you have less
time to try new things, engage new people
or just have fun. You are robbing yourself
of positive time and experiences.
Desiring change is not a bad thing.
Wanting to achieve more is not a bad
thing. Wanting to take better care of
yourself, look nicer or get better grades
are all great goals to have.
It is how you frame your thoughts
that’s important. Positive change comes
from positive messages. Negative
messages undermine your self-esteem
and rarely result in positive long-term
changes.
Giving Up the Power
One in every five girls will
avoid giving her opinion
when she feels bad about the
way she looks.
1
13YOUR POWER
14
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
I was in about grade
four the fi rst time I really
became self-conscious
about my body. A friend and I were
having a sleepover at another
friend’s house. So there were three
of us. The mom at the friend’s house
where we were sleeping had bought
us all matching PJs. It was a nice
thought, but she bought the PJs at a
kid’s store and they only went up to a
certain size. I was already tall by then
and already fi lling out a bit. It hadn’t
really bothered me before. I never
even really thought about it. But
when she gave us our PJs, mine
didn’t fi t. I mean, not even passable.
So there were my two friends with
their new pink PJs and me wearing a
pair borrowed from my friend’s mom.
I felt like such a loser.
— M
15YOUR POWER
15
YOUR POWER
Remember when you were younger — not baby
young (its hard to remember those times) — but
little girl young. Remember when you would go to
school in your PJs, or wear your most favorite
princess dress to the park. Remember when you
just did and wore what made you feel good.
You didnt care if anyone else wanted to
wear one purple sock with one orange
sock over green striped tights; you just
went for it, because you liked it. You
made your choices based on what
made you feel good, not by
com-
paring yourself to others. You
had no idea what being popular
meant. You didnt see yourself as
too short or too fat. You just hopped
right into the sandbox, princess dress
and all, and started laughing with
everyone else. ose were pretty
good times. Dont you miss those
times a little?
But then something changed.
What was it?
Well you got older. You
started noticing the things
around you. Suddenly, you began to notice
the di erences between you and your friends.
At about the same time, your body started chang-
ing — a lot. Small di erences between you and your
friends were becoming bigger di erences. On top
of all that, your world started
to expand. All of a sudden
there were a lot more people in
your life — teachers, coaches, class-
mates, all of whom began to
in uence the way you thought
of yourself. And as if that
was
not enough, Dora the Explorer
was replaced with reality
television, music videos,
YouTube, teen movies, fashion mag-
azines and a ton of other captivating
images, all inviting you to a grow up and
join in a brand new world.
So here you are. You’re growing, your
body is changing and you  nd yourself sur-
rounded by an exciting, yet at times scary,
new world. Its a lot to take in — a fan-
tastically huge amount of stu to take
in — all in a very short period of time.
is may likely be one of the hardest
periods of your life to steer through.
So take a breath, and give yourself a
break. It is going to be overwhelming
at times. You are going to get confused
at times. But understand this, you are not
alone. Millions of young girls are going through
the same thing you are at this very moment.
But why have you all of a sudden become so
much more self-conscious about yourself? Why are
WHAT THE
BLEEP HAPPENED?
you all of a sudden so unsure about what to wear
and how to do your hair? Why do you just not feel
as comfortable in your own skin anymore? Is it the
changes your body is going through? Partly.
ere is a lot going on with your body right
now, and not all of it is happily anticipated. But
puberty can often end up taking the blame for every
thought or emotion a girl has at this age. And girls
are often told not to worry about things at this stage
of their life. Maybe you have heard that you will
outgrow it, it is just your hormones, these feelings you
are having won’t last or, worse yet, that they’re not
real. While it is true that puberty can aect many
of your feelings and that your body does experience
signicant change right through to young adult-
hood, it is more than just this. Many girls continue
to be uncomfortable with themselves
well beyond
puberty,
right through adulthood. If it were just
puberty aecting a young womans self-condence,
then the cosmetic, diet and plastic surgery indus
tries
wouldnt be billion dollar businesses (and growing
every year)!
Having said that, however, the physical and
hormonal changes you are going through at this
stage in your life are major and shouldn’t be under-
estimated by anyone, including yourself. It is very
important for you that you understand all of these
changes. Nothing is
scarier than when you dont
understand what is
happening to your body, espe-
cially if it is not happening to all of your friends at
the same time.
is book is not a book about puberty. How-
ever, there are lots of great books out there that can
prepare you or answer your questions. Just be care-
ful about where you get your
information. I know the
This is the day when I
stopped feeling pretty. I am
Japanese and my eyes are sort
of almond shaped. When I was young, I
was always told what a pretty little girl I
was, so I always felt very pretty and never
gave any special thought to my eyes. But
one day when I was a bit older, maybe
grade five, I was at my friend’s house and
we were playing around with some makeup
and she said something like, “You can’t
wear eye shadow as good because your
eyes are too small.” That was all it took.
— M
16
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
17YOUR POWER
If it were just
puberty aecting
a young womans
self-condence, then
the cosmetic, diet and
plastic surgery industries wouldn’t
be billion dollar businesses (and
growing every year)!
Internet is quicker, easier and cheaper than
going to a bookstore, but there are a lot of jokesters
and less than intelligent strangers out there who
may not be the best ones to turn to when needing
to understand the ner points on menstruation.
Plus, who knows what will come back when you
input questions like, “How big will my breasts get?”
or “How much hair growth is normal?” So, not to
knock the Internet, but if you want to use it, make
very sure the site you are referencing is credible or
ask a trusted adult to help you nd the information
you need.
So, is puberty important? Yup. But there are
also a lot of other factors inuencing you right now
and they are just as import-
ant. And just as you would
take the time to learn
about whats going
on with puberty,
you need to learn, or at least really pay attention
to, all of these other things in your life that can
affect how you feel about yourself and the world
around you.
Consider this thought. If you lived alone
on a deserted island your whole life (right from
birth, before you could be inuenced by any out-
side factors), how concerned would you be with
the shape of your legs? Probably not very much.
You would just be happy that you had two healthy
legs that got you around the island. You wouldnt
think their shape should be any different than
they were.
Now consider this. What if you moved alone
to the deserted island later in life, after being
exposed to boys’ opinions, magazine covers
and MTV videos? How concerned would you be
with the shape of your legs then? I am guessing
again, probably not very much. Because, alone
on the island, you dont have to compare yourself
to anyone else. What you will be most grateful for
is that you have two healthy legs to get you around
and up the coconut trees.
18
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
But you dont live on a deserted island. You
live in the real world, surrounded by lots and lots
of people with lots and lots of opinions. Opinions
about everything from what music is best, to who
is the greatest dancer, to what shape a girl’s legs
should be. This makes life interesting. There are
so many different images and ideas to explore.
This can be a great thing. But it can also be a
dangerous thing.
You see, everything and everyone you come in
contact with influences you in some way. Some-
times you dont even realize it is happening. It is so
subtle that you dont realize that over time your
thoughts about yourself or others have changed
because of what you have been exposed to.
Some of these inuences can be very positive
— the coach who encourages you to try out for the
When I was in grade six, the
girl that stood out most in the class
was Jessica. To me, she was the
“perfect girl.” She always seemed so happy and
everyone liked her. Life just looked easy for her.
I guess I was a little jealous of that. So I got it in
my head that I wanted to be more like her or,
better yet, exactly like her. I just assumed back
then that to be like someone, you just had to
look like them.
So when school got out that year, I vowed
to spend my whole summer getting to be as
much like Jessica as possible. She had long curly
dark hair and was small, like china-doll small. So
I started to grow my hair as long as possible
and I spent forever every morning curling it so it
would look like hers. And then once I had spent
forever curling it, I didn’t want to go into our pool
because it would ruin all my hard work. I didn’t
want to do anything that would ruin it. I basically
just sat around a lot that summer. I also refused
to eat anything more than necessary, trying to
shrink my body to the smallest size possible. This
was really hard since my parents allowed way
more treats in the summer than during the normal
year (I really missed my s’mores).
Anyway, finally the first day of grade seven
arrived and I couldn’t wait for everyone to see
the brand new me! I took extra-long that morn-
ing, making sure that I looked “just right.” I’m
not exactly sure what I expected to happen, but
I didn’t expect what happened next. I will never
forget coming around the side of the school
and running right into a group of my friends all
hugging in that “so great to be back together”
way. And there in the middle was Jessica. I
couldn’t believe my eyes. China-doll Jessica had
grown four inches, filled out and had cut her
long hair into a short pixie with an added pink
streak running through it. I didn’t look at all like
Jessica anymore.
And on top of it all, my new looks didn’t
instantly give me Jessica’s life, like I had hoped.
I still had my same life and Jessica was still
Jessica — still always pretty happy. It took me a
long time to figure out that was just Jessica. It
was just the person she was. I wish I had figured
that out before I wasted a whole hot summer
without swimming or s’mores!
— T
29% of girls won’t go to the beach, pool
or sauna because they feel badly about
the way they look.
2
volleyball team, the teacher who opens your eyes to
art, the new friend who shares your love of running.
But some of these inuences can make you feel
bad about yourself, lose your condence and become
angry. Although you might not do it on purpose,
as your world expands, you start to measure yourself
against all the other people you see, all the images
that bombard you daily, all of the opinions you
come in contact with. And it can seem impossible
to measure up and exhausting just trying to keep
on top of it all. Somewhere along the line, little by
little, you might start to become sad and angry at
yourself. You may try to x all the things you think
are wrong with you. But you cant because there are
always more things depending on what the latest
opinion is. And you get angry at the things you
cant x and you blame your God or Mother Nature
or your parents or someone, anyone, for
all those things that are wrong with
you. Pretty soon (and you may not
even be aware of this), you spend
more of your time telling yourself
what is wrong with you then what
is right with you. And that is not the
way it should be.
Once you start living
your life to someone
else’s ideal, then you are
lost. You will forever be
focusing on the negative.
Do not let the world
around you control you.
Understand how your world
inuences you so that you
can choose
to embrace the positive, reject
the
preposterous and focus on what you
are. You are a truly remarkable girl!
19YOUR POWER
20
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
21YOUR POWER
What makes you unhappy? This is just a random sampling of the
answers I received when I asked girls
what makes them unhappy. is is not
a scientic survey. Although each and
every girl was beautiful (as defined
by me) and healthy, nearly all the
girls I asked tended to focus
on external traits of beauty
as dening their happiness/
unhappiness.
Now to be fair, the girls
I spoke with were
mostly from com-
fortable, middle-
class backgrounds.
Asking this ques-
tion to young girls in a
war-torn country or to those
living in poverty or in abusive
situations would surely yield
different answers. But the
truth is, unless facing extreme
hardship, many girls (and
women) tend to list their looks as one of
their top preoccupations.
In extreme cases, a persons unhappiness with
their physical appearance can be due to a mental
illness known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
Although BDD is extreme, the struggle many
young girls have with their looks can lead to low
self-esteem. Self-esteem reects a persons overall
self-appraisal of their worth. It is defined as
condence and satisfaction in oneself.
4
MEASURING UP
Im fat.
Im ugly.
My breasts are
too big.
My breasts are
too small.
Im too tall.
Im too short.
My hair is thin.
My arms are
hairy.
My nose is
too big.
I don’t look like the
other girls in my
class.
My thighs are
too fat.
I hate my pimples.
e hair on my legs
is dark and thick.
My feet are big.
My sister is prettier
than me.
Im not allowed to
wear what all my
friends wear.
Nearly 1 in 3 girls, grades
6-8, often wish they were
someone else.
3
Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of
chronic mental illness in which you can’t
stop thinking about a flaw with your
appearance — a flaw that is either minor
or imagined. But to you, your appearance
seems so shameful that you don’t want
to be seen by anyone. Body dysmorphic
disorder has sometimes been called
“imagined ugliness.”
When you have body dysmorphic
disorder, you intensely obsess over your
appearance and body image, often for
many hours a day. You may seek out
numerous cosmetic procedures to try to
“fix” your perceived flaws, but never will
be satisfied. Body dysmorphic disorder is
also known as dysmorphophobia, the fear
of having a deformity.
5
22
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
23YOUR POWER
When you feel good about yourself and your
accomplishments, you have good self-esteem.
When your self-esteem is healthy, you have a stron-
ger respect for yourself and are more condent and
happier with life — all good things! e opposite
is true as your self-esteem decreases.
Self-esteem is tied to whats important to you.
For example, if the most important thing to you is
to become a doctor, then your self-esteem will rise
as you do well in school and get accepted into med-
ical school and eventually graduate. You have
worked
hard and achieved your goal and you feel proud of
it. Way to go!
On the other hand, you dont have to achieve
a concrete goal to build a strong self-esteem. Some-
times a person is proud of the fact that they will
take risks and try new things. Some of the things
they try work out and some dont. e satisfaction
and self-respect comes from the trying.
People dont often feel good about themselves
all the time and thats okay. We all go through some
hard times where we may lose confidence in
ourselves, but an overall positive self-image and
self-respect is necessary to a strong, positive and
happy life.
Self-Esteem Matters
75% of girls with low self-esteem
reported engaging in harmful activities
like disordered eating, cutting, bullying,
smoking or drinking when feeling badly
about themselves.
6
24
JUST BE YOU, GIRL
But when you dont respect yourself and all
that you have to o er, it can make life very di cult
and you can su er both mentally and physically. You
may become depressed, angry, anxious, withdrawn.
You may have trouble eating, sleeping or making
good choices for yourself. So, self-esteem, the
respect
that you give yourself, has very real consequences
for your life.
No one instinctively knows that they are too
tall or too short. You didnt know it in the sand-
box and you wouldnt know it if you lived alone
on a deserted island. You judge yourself through
comparison to others, because of the images you see
daily and because of what people tell you. A cruel
remark by a boy, coupled with supermodel images,
and all of a sudden you dont measure up.
I know that feeling good about your appearance
at this age is important. It is important to most
females no matter what their age. We all want to
feel good about the way we look. No one is suggest-
ing that you should not care about your appearance.
It is all in how you balance it with your acceptance
of yourself. You want to concentrate on feeling good
about your look, not obsessing about copying some-
one else’s or, worse yet, trying to measure up to some
fantasy of perfection.
If you are always looking to others to approve
of you based on how you look, then you will always
fall short. If your self-esteem and self-worth are tied
to nothing but your appearance, then you are set-
ting yourself up for a very di cult life. It is because
there is no perfect look. ere is no one right way
to look. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which
means that di erent people are attracted to di er-
ent things. So if you are trying to please everyone,
it just wont work — you cant be all things to all
people. ere will always be someone there to crit-
icize something or point out some perceived short-
coming. Plus, the truth is, you have to work with
what Mother Nature gave you. Sometimes you
might be able to tweak it a bit, but not always. You
might not want to be taller than all the other girls,
but it is not likely that you are going to be able to
change your height. at is just a fact.
So instead of spending countless hours and
tears trying to measure up to someone else’s stan-
dard, you can choose to concentrate on de ning and
feeling good about your own look, so it is only your
approval that you seek when you look in the mirror.
Why Are We Talking
about All This?
• Because when you ask a young
girl what she thinks of herself,
you are more likely to get a
negative answer about some
physical quality she doesn’t
like than you are to get a positive
answer about what she is good
at or has accomplished.
Because we live in a culture obsessed
with physical beauty, defi ned by very
narrow criteria.
Because, through media messages, we
lie to our girls constantly, telling them
they can and should physically improve
themselves instead of focusing on all the
great things that they are right now.
Because young girls are set up to fail,
trying to obtain a perfection of beauty
that doesn’t exist.
Because young girls all over the world
are struggling with poor self-esteem and
poor body-image issues.
25YOUR POWER
In grade four I was singled
out by the boys in my class for
being “different.” For me, being
“different” means my skin color was not
white. My mom is Guyanese and my dad is
French Canadian.
I was asked why I was neither “white”
nor “black.” I told them I was proud to be
French-Canadian/Guyanese, and I was
proud of my parents, and it had nothing to
do with my skin color.
Not knowing how to accept me, they
decided to call me Chihuahua. That name
stayed with me until my mom intervened.
— M
If your self-esteem and self-worth
are tied to nothing but your
appearance, then you are
setting yourself up for a
very dicult life.
25YOUR POWER