I’ve been reading a lot about self love and self-esteem as it relates to young girls. Teaching self-esteem isn’t a “nice to have” or some floofy, silly thing. It is a survival skill. It is an inoculation. The best way to love our daughters is to teach them to love themselves.
Statistics Reveal a Troubling Trend
According to the Dove Self-Esteem Fund report, approximately 92% of teenage girls want to change something about their physical appearance. The single most common physical feature that teenage girls want to change is their weight.
The same report cited above also found that 53% of 13-year-old girls in the United States are unhappy with their bodies. What’s even more alarming is that this number jumps to 78% by the time they reach 17.
From an early age, girls are exposed to movies, advertising campaigns, toys, and other media depicting warped views of the female body. Over time, this exposure hard-wires their brain to believe this is the way they should look. They see abnormally slim women with disproportionate bodies, and they learn to feel ‘less than.’
Not pretty enough.
Not slim enough.
Not blonde enough.
Not white enough.
Not able enough.
Our young girls are yearning for representation and inclusion. According to the NYC Girls Project, approximately 81% of girls prefer to see natural photos of models instead of photoshopped, airbrushed or otherwise altered versions. Additionally, however, nearly half of girls surveyed for the project said fashion magazines give them a body image to strive for. So, while girls prefer seeing natural photos of models, they are still heavily influenced by the altered, unrealistic body images depicted in these magazines.
Finally, 7 in 10 girls between the ages of 8 and 17 believe they aren’t “good enough” to measure up to their appearance. Statistics such as this paint a grim but realistic picture of today’s society.
How Low Self-Esteem Affects Girls’ Health
Low self-esteem causes a myriad of problems for young girls, both physical and emotional. DoSomething.org – a global campaign designed to promote self-love to youth – says that 75% of girls with low self-esteem engage in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking and eating disorders. In comparison, only 25% of girls with high self-esteem engage in these activities.
Teach Young Girls to Love Themselves
Whether you’re a parent, sibling, teacher or friend, you should teach all the young girls in your life to love themselves. As 17th century French dramatist Pierre Corneille once said, “Self-love is the source of all our other loves.” By teaching girls how to love themselves, they’ll have an easier time expressing love to others, all while maintaining a higher level of self-esteem and confidence.
Let them know that they are beautiful just the way they are. They don’t need to look a certain way to be loved. And those magazines? TV shows? and Barbie Dolls? Those representations of beauty aren’t the standard that they need to live up to.
Girls with high self-esteem will live happier, healthier lives. They will feel beautiful in their own skin. They won’t buy into a false narrative sold to use to make us feel ‘less than.’