According to her peers, she has beautiful eyes and her hair is always perfection. She is tall and her ballet classes have made her stand with wonderful posture. Natalia, on the other hand, believes that her hair is dull and lifeless. She thinks her feet are too big and that she needs to lose another 10 pounds, at least! When asked, she struggles to find anything beautiful about herself.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, after recently discussing confidence and self-esteem with a group of young women, I learned that too many girls have low self-esteem and that they are highly critical of their body image. Natalia is not alone in her harsh self-judgments.
Unfortunately, it does not end at physical beauty, the criticism goes deeper. The girls struggle to believe that they are intelligent and always find an example of someone who is smarter, more beautiful or more personable than they are. They tend to have negative self-talk and they struggle to own the compliments that are given to them by friends or family.
Notice everything. Pay close attention. These girls are not hiding it as much as society would like to believe. The signs are actually very obvious. What do they say when you give them a compliment? How do they look at themselves in the mirror? Do they put their ideas down as silly or unrealistic? Notice how they react to other women and other girls. Do they wish out loud? Do you hear them saying, ‘I wish my legs were as thin as’, or do you see them hiding behind scruffy clothes? These are all signals.
Get curious. Ask her what she likes about her face or what she loves about herself – mind and body. Does she shy away? Ask her why. Confidence is not someone else’s problem. It affects us all. One confident young girl will become a confident young woman who will become a confident young mother. Do you see where I am going with this? Confidence belongs to us all. It is a problem that we face as a community, and as a society.
Are you Natalia? Do you find it difficult to feel good about yourself? Reach out to someone for help. Are you one of those girls who is ‘confident looking’ and, to everyone else, seems to have it all? Are you struggling silently? Do you find yourself feeling unattractive, and do you believe that the other girls are more outgoing than you ever could be?
Reach out to someone and tell them how you feel. Visit the bookstores and read some fabulous books about self-confidence. Google stories about real women who struggled with low self-esteem. Speak to your mothers, your sisters, your brothers and your friends. Tell someone how you feel.
On the journey of life, I would like to believe that we are all beautiful inside and out. Unfortunately, too many children are criticised from an early age and the effects of their experiences follow them and impact them as well as those that surround them. The cycle must stop and there is no better day than today. Gone are the days of blaming the media; the media only respond to society’s requests. If we demand ‘real women’ on the covers of a magazines then real women will be placed on the covers. Make-up, clothes and accessories do not have to define us, they should complement us and help us to shine brighter.
Start complementing more and criticising less. Start encouraging guys and girls to see their beauty. Remember your guy friends. They struggle with confidence just as much as your girlfriends do. Speak to yourself just as you would your friends. Accept your imperfections and appreciate life with all of its challenges. Beauty is beautiful but, as with everything, it will not matter for very long.
by Maria V. Chatila, Owner & Creator of Teens Talk Middle East, www.teenstalk-me.com