The Necessity of Teaching Girls Their Self-Worth
“If you could only be pretty or smart, which one would you be?” A whole decade later and I can still remember the question posed to me in the 6th grade lunch room. If I were granted only one of these coveted traits, which would it be? Would I choose to strut around the halls of junior high school with an air of pre-pubescent self-confidence or allow my mind to soak up a condensed history of the United States (later granting me genuine self-assurance)? The choice was self-evident. “Smart,” I replied.
Junior high school is the fundamental period in a girl’s life when she will begin to take conscious measure of what it means to be self-confident, yet it is also the age when children feel their most awkward. Pimples start to arise; metal, sometimes multicolored, wires cover up previously toothy smiles, and physical differences begin to take root. “Fat” and “skinny” become the most obsessive qualities and overused adjectives to describe peers and oneself. It is at this age when intrinsic ideas of self-worth and value are most misunderstood and overlooked.
Instead of recognizing the inherent features that make them unique and expressive beings, young girls are told to crush the positive voices in their heads, relacing them with self-doubt and negativity. Jane Shure articulates this premise in her Huff Post article,”Breaking Free from the Need to Do More,” explaining how girls acquire a ‘cultural virus’ that establishes insecurity and trains them to inflict self-imposed limitations and fears, dimming their vibrancy. In a sense, Shure argues, young girls wind up becoming young women on a “path to self-esteem recovery forever after.”
No one escapes the awkward years, and at one point or another, insecurity touches us all. But rather than this remaining a fleeting, momentary period of confusion, it has the potential to ignite a ceaseless struggle to achieve self-acceptance. “We constantly measure ourselves against each other’s progress,” Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her article for Oprah Magazine. Comparisons begin in the classroom, on the soccer field, and later creep into all sorts of environments — measuring relationships, careers, and sheer livelihoods.
From an early age, girls must be taught their inherent value, establishing a foundation for a healthy mind, body, and soul connection. Seldom should we allow our self-worth to be comprised, neither during the awkward stages nor later in life’s progression. Girls must be taught that their most valuable assets reside in their minds and souls.