Be the change you want to see in the world.
Wise words but they require an incredible amount of self-awareness and self-discipline to live by.
I spend my working week talking to and about the need to raise the aspirations of teenage girls in the UK. This inevitably leads to debates around self-esteem, body confidence, resilience, low aspirations, rising mental health issues and why girls are so risk averse and afraid of failure, in fact in a recent survey carried out by Always 49% of young girls feel paralysed by the fear of failure during puberty.
My antidote to this and the core remit of my social enterprise Girls Out Loud is to connect girls to smart, sassy, confident and rocking female role models, women who are comfortable in their own skin and willing to share their stories warts an all!
The need for role models was also the core message of my second book Diva Wisdom – Find Your Voice; Rock Your World; Pass it On!
In essence, I am passionate about harnessing real women with real stories to combat the glut of celebrity culture and even more destructive the deluge of Reality TV stars. But I have to be honest and say after 7 years of talking about this, as a society, we still have some soul searching to do to recognise what a real role model is. Being female is not enough!
The life skills our young girls need today as they navigate their way through the challenging landscape of puberty include…
Emotional resilience, courage to take risks, gumption, ambition, confidence to ask and stand up, visibility in and out of the classroom and the confidence to be themselves as they carve out their own identity.
Instead we see girls struggling to live up to the one size fits all beauty myth pedalled by all the media and global brands, we see them staying small and insignificant for fear of being rejected as a cold, uncaring and man hating feminist (don’t get me started on this one, a whole different blog!) or a demanding, selfish witch; We see smart girls dumbing down as it is not cool to be clever and at the other extreme we see quiet, almost invisible, nice, obedient academic perfectionists with no gumption, no personality and an abject fear of failure. It is energy sapping!
Now before you start blaming everyone else for this situation like schools, media, friends, celebrities, teachers, social media etc. Stop for a moment and look in the mirror.
How are you showing up?
- Are you embracing your authenticity? Are you real, happy to share your vulnerability, brave enough to take a risk?
- Are you comfortable in your own skin or on a permanent diet or health kick or anti-ageing regime?
- Do you constantly put yourself down, marginalise your worth, stay quiet about your talents?
- When was the last time you put your hand up and grabbed an opportunity; asked for a pay rise or a bonus or an opportunity to lead?
- Have you been brave enough to follow your dreams?
- Do you buy into the destructive, unrealistic media representation of perfect beauty?
- Are you scathing of women in power, or working Mums, or stay at home Mums, or childless women, or wealthy women, or female bosses or female TV presenters etc?
Do you get the picture?
- When we sit around discussing our diet habits in minute detail in front of our girls they listen and see our pain and this gives them some powerful messages.
- When we hate our bodies we teach them to hate theirs too.
- If we stay silent in the shadow of injustice and sexism they fear speaking up too.
- If we appear to judge other women for their choices, they become paralysed by the fear of making the wrong choices so make none.
- When we treat women in power with disrespect and contempt this confuses them as we have been telling them since the age of 3 that they can rule the world!
- When we display absolute exhaustion from ‘doing it all’ all a result of misinterpreting ‘having it all’ they start to question the reality of having a career and family
I could go on………. But let me be clear, when I refer to WE in most cases I am including men. This is not simply a female issue. We still live in a patriarchy so no one is off the hook!
I am simple asking us as women to step up and be the change.
Here is an example of situations that make me weep. This week I was sat on a train listening to a group of smart, attractive, slim, professional, twenty something women discuss the calorific content of every alcoholic drink from Sangria to Sauvignon Blanc in an attempt to get the most from their daily allowance! This conversation was banal and depressing simultaneously.
Be the role model your daughter deserves. Be real, be honest, be the best version of you. Teach her that perfection is an illusion and boring and guide her as the big brands make a play for her soul.
Be awake, be aware and be open to what is going on around her and stay close as she explores and starts to uncover her identity.
Remember she may not always listen to what you say, but you better believe she is watching what you do!