Raising Wonderful Women
Raising young women is a huge responsibility but one that should not be restricted to purely the role of a mother or father. The word ‘raise’ dates back to c1200 and derives from an Old Norse word “reisa.” It translates as “to cause a rising of” “set upright” “to build and construct.” The word “raise”also means to “uplift, promote the growth of, and elevate to a higher position.” I strongly believe that we are all, in some shape or form, responsible for the raising of our young girls and women in our community. How do we begin to elevate our young girls into confident young women and leaders of their own path and what role do we have in helping them to rise? First, we must understand that we
all play a part in helping them to rise.
We are born into this world innocent; completely accepting of all things and all people. We are in awe of the world around us and are blessed with the purity of non-judgment. We are totally loving and accepting of Self. Our self-esteem is high because we don’t judge, we just are. Sadly, we are born into a world full of pressures, a world that tells us, through media, advertising and music, how to look and how to think and how to behave. We live in a world that subconsciously tells us that it is not okay to be ourselves, to make mistakes or to be left all alone on ‘prom night.’ We live in a world that teaches us to say “yes” and seek approval of others. Adverts still group women into restrictive categories of “domestic goddess” “sex symbol” “object of desire” “mother” and “aggressive and bitchy business woman.” Homogeneous stick thin models in need of a good meal still front the magazines, young women are still objectified and sexualised in music videos, video games, films and adverts. The message shouts loud and clear “Be like this and we
will give you the stamp of approval!” Whose stamp of approval?
We need to raise our girls to understand, on a very deep level, that they are perfectly and
wonderfully made. We need to teach our young girls to celebrate their differences and that they are unique in their own way. They do not need to gyrate and whine to be liked or be popular with the opposite sex, they do not need to lather themselves in foundation and plasticated make up to be attractive and they do not need to say “yes” to every offer they get.
In a culture with widespread sexual objectification, young girls as young as 12, are beginning to identify themselves as objects of desire. This internalized sexual objectification has been linked to problems with mental health such as clinical depression,
“habitual body monitoring”, eating disorders, body shame and lack of self-worth. Now, more than ever, we need to impress upon young girls that they are not defined by their physical appearance but by the content of their unique character. Now more than ever we need to let our young girls know it is okay to switch off the TV, disconnect from Social Media and work on loving themselves and finding out who they are.
Thoughts and Words
The Telegraph (Aug 2015) states that, “A new survey by Girlguiding UK shows almost half of British girls have suffered with mental health problems, with self-harm being one of the biggest concerns.” It also states that the majority of seven to ten year olds said they had felt “sad” or “down, 1 in five young girls said they were upset by the way they looked and 39% said they had received demeaning comments about their appearance. A magazine called Girl Talk also found that half the girls defined beautiful as being “fashionable” and “thin.” Furthermore shockingly enough, a study carried out by
The Children’s Society found that the young girls of Britain are significantly unhappier than children in Ethiopia and Algeria. Why when we have so much in the Western world are our young girls so unhappy?
First we must tackle the damaging thought processes caused by images and words these young girls are seeing and hearing. The Bible, The Torah, Buddhism and the Koran teach us about the Power of words. The Bible says, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12.18) The Torah says, “The mighty power of words hurt, heal and fashion reality.” Buddha said, “Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are true and kind, they change our world.” The Koran says, “Kind words (spoken) and forgiving of faults are better than sadaqa (charity)”
The pressure on young girls to be “beautiful” and “attractive” is sky high. The Media speaks to us every day telling us what is acceptable and what is not. Therefore,
the way in which we speak to ourselves is crucial, the thoughts we think and the way we speak to others. In a world that constantly bombards us with images of who we should be, it is crucial that we raise our young girls to know who they are. It is easy to allow the exterior world to dictate our inner perception of ourselves.
We must teach our young girls how to speak to themselves with love and respect. Positive self-talk is essential. We all have a role in teaching our young girls how to do this by speaking positively about ourselves, first as an example, and in turn speaking positively to and about them. Our words have the ability to harm or heal. They can be the difference between elevating a young woman or beating her down.
Lastly, teaching a young girl how to elevate another is a powerful practice. We need to teach them that we do not and are not created to exist as islands but to collaborate and support one other. We must teach them to close their ears to gossip and open their hearts to one another; that there is room for all to blossom and grow in this world and that there is strength in elevation and wisdom in understanding that, in a world where women already struggle to balance love, relationships, motherhood, working life, career, hopes and dreams, trials and tribulations, they stand much stronger as a united force uplifting the other with words and actions. We must dispel the myth that the other woman is “the enemy” but in fact a sister who too needs support, encouragement, uplifting and inspiration. We must raise our young girls to become young woman who know, in their
own uniqueness, that “a flower does not compete with the flower next to it, it simply blooms.”
When we raise our young girls to know and love themselves from the inside out, then they truly will become a united force to be reckoned with.