I have decided that all the people who have been telling us for the past 40-50 years that girls lose their self esteems in middle and high school are off the mark. They have missed the forest for the trees.
Can adolescent girls have moments when they feel and act insecure? Of course. Are there times when they seem to lack confidence? Yep. But that is true of each and every one of you who are reading this as well.
Author Ken Robinson, in his book The Element, tells the story of an 8 year old girl in the 1930’s who was taken to a psychologist because of poor academic performance, unruly behaviors, and an inability to sit still and learn like the other kids. When the therapist left the girl alone in his office and turned on the radio, he and the mother watched through the 2-way mirror as the girl started gracefully dancing around the room.
He turned to the mom and said: “She’s not sick, she’s a dancer!” He encouraged her to enter her daughter in a dance school, which she did, and the rest, as they say, is history. Gillian Lynne grew up to become a world class dancer, and eventually the choreographer for Andrew Lloyd Webber plays like Cats and Phantom of the Opera.
I believe that we all need to reframe how we view teen girls and their ‘signs of poor self esteem’. I’ve met girls who looked timid in the classroom setting and rarely raised their hands look like aggressive tigers out on the basketball court. I’ve had too numerous to count preteen and teen girls come to my retreats and camps with labels like low self esteem who shone at camp.
Once they got into a non-judgmental environment that accepted them for who they were, their best selves came out and they blossomed. They did not have poor self confidence; they were not defined by a core identity of low self esteem; it’s not who they are. It depended on the context and environment where they were at the time.
Girl’s core, authentic selves are just perfect. In certain environments where they do not feel that they fit in or are appreciated for who they are, they tend to fade into the background more, or not look right, like Gillian Lynne.
Any fish out of water will not be fully alive. And that goes for adolescent girls as well