Too often girls choose to define themselves based on numbers, resulting in ever-present anxiety, self-hatred, and discontent. These digits come in many forms, including how you look and how you perform. The culprits causing this phenomenon are numerous as well. I hope this article awakens you to the impact this numbers game has on our daughters.
Where does this story begin? When it comes to girl’s appearance, several developments came into play in the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s that triggered an overemphasis on weight and body type. Scales and mirrors started appearing in homes, allowing girls to see and critique themselves daily. Standardized dress sizes encouraged even more weight consciousness.
Fast forward 100 years and girls have countless numbers to digest that involves their bodies including: height, weight, BMI, jeans and dress size, bra size, bootie size, grams of carbs and fat, caloric intake and calories burned, number of times a week you exercise, school caliper tests, and the number of steps walked per day. Girls obsess about their own numbers as well as how they compare to friends and celebrities. Most began thinking differently about their bodies in grade school, due to body changes from puberty, comments from friends or boys or family, and especially from comparing themselves.
The education process provides more grist for the numbers mill. Girls experience stress and anxiety about their grades, GPA, standardized test scores, class ranking, and finally the ranking of universities they apply to. Parents, teachers, school counselors in middle school and high school, and colleges all unwittingly pile on pressure that girls interpret as the need to be perfect and numero uno.
Don’t get me started on extracurricular activities. Starting in early grade school, the focus becomes all about being number one, the number and level of teams you are on, your personal or team ranking, and how much college scholarship money you receive. Everything is a competition for being number one including sports, dance, cheer, choir, and debate.
Finally, even friendships carry a number tag. What has become important is the number of friends you have at school and on social media sites, the number of cool or racy photos you’ve placed on sites, how many texts you receive, and how many hits you get from pictures and entries. This creates a never-ending race to keep up and stay in the loop.
It’s not the numbers listed that are the problem per se; the problem lies in the importance girls place on them. They need guidance about not letting any of these numbers define who they are, who they can become, and what their value is. They are so much more than their weight, their grades, their level of popularity, and what college they attend.
It’s harder to quantify more important qualities that girls possess, i.e. their level of grit, determination, integrity, creativity, leadership, compassion, loyalty to friends, inclusivity, kindness, sense of adventure, courage, self-reliance, passion, entrepreneurial spirit, and vision. So we must value these aspects of girls, acknowledge them, and encourage them to see beyond externals. I want girls to define themselves based upon what is important to them, from the inside out.