Being a teenage girl in 2019
We live in an age where teenage girls are able to enjoy historic opportunity.
I watched Oprah Winfrey preach ‘Girl Power’ from the Golden Globes stage, Spain has appointed a majority-women cabinet, voters in Ireland struck down one of the most draconian abortion bans in the developed world and women in Saudi Arabia finally became able to drive legally.
But while all of that is going on, here in the UK, our teenage girls are twice as depressed, anxious and stressed out as boys of the same age.
In the age of female empowerment, we are still somehow unable to lose some of the most old-fashioned views where girls feel the need to please others and be sexy enough for whoever is looking.
Much of the blame for this can be put at the door of social media with a daily feed of friends and celebrities showing off tight abs and thin arms which deepens girls’ body shame.
But can we, as the adults in society, also look at ourselves and ask if we can alleviate the problem too?
When I talk to my young boys about being a successful woman, I often talk about the importance of balancing our life and how proud I am that I manage to hold down a job, run a home, socialise, keep fit, be ambitious, cook healthy dinners, help others and still sleep well at night. Some weeks, I don’t know how I manage it – but I do!
Is this really what I want to teach my boys? Do I really want them growing up with this expectation of all women?
They may grow up to believe that successful women have to be some kind of superhumans that MUST manage all of these things and still look in control (which I positively am not most of the time)!
So am I merely adding to the pressures of role models and expectations that many teenage girls complain they feel pressurised into achieving? Am I adding to the feeling of ‘I am not enough’ that we know our teenage girls are experiencing? Am I, and many of the ‘role-models’ around us actually part of the problem?
In other words, we are raising a generation of girls who may look exceptional on paper but are often anxious and overwhelmed in life. Girls who feel that, no matter how hard they try, they will never be smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough, thin enough, well liked enough, witty enough or sexy enough.
Girls need help in accepting who they are, what they are and what they want in life.
They need to learn to love themselves and surround themselves with positive people who accept them. Learn to listen to themselves, trust themselves and treat themselves in the right way.
We need to educate our young females on what is realistic in life, in terms of body image, role models, achievement and expectation. We need to remind teenage girls that success can take many forms, it can be achieved in many ways but ultimately it is only success if it is on your own terms.
We must never forget that.
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