As an educator who has spoken to thousands of middle and high school students across the country for over a decade, I continuously emphasize to the young girls I meet to proudly take stock in themselves.
I encourage them to reflect on and feel good about their accomplishments, and to celebrate who they are and accept and love themselves for being the unique individuals they were born to be.
Being a teenage girl is often difficult at times and easily considered the hardest years socially and emotionally that indelibly leave lifelong lasting impressions on one’s psyche. During Women’s Self Empowerment Week (the first week of January), I encourage teenage girls to celebrate this opportunity to empower themselves to embrace and cherish their uniqueness, while at the same time becoming individuals who contribute to successful and amazing experiences for other young females.
I hope that the following advice will help guide teenage girls to create positive and meaningful impressions upon themselves and others that will last a lifetime.
First: Define what you want in a friendship, and be that kind of friend.
Determine for yourself, what are three characteristics you want to have in your circle of friends. Whether it is trust, kindness, compassion, or great nail polish, these should be qualities that you absolutely will not compromise on. However, one should be mindful of not placing expectations on a friend that you yourself would not adhere to, which is eloquently illustrated in a well-known Irish quote, “Those who gossip with you, gossip of you.” Once you define these characteristics for yourself, become them among your friends.
Second: Love your jiggle.
Regardless if you are large, small, short, or tall, accept who you are, and love everything about yourself, and I mean everything. There are certain things about me that don't fit the "status quo" of beauty, whether it's my size, my shape or the birthmark on my left temple. The point is that they all make me who I am and that is my jiggle. It's me. We often criticize ourselves for not being this or that. Forget about those doubtful thoughts and love yourself for the exceptional one of a kind human being that you are.
Third: Risk saying “I Know” but never stop learning.
I’ve witnessed and talked to many girls throughout my career who fear being seen as smart, and consequently retreat to the background with a fear of being labeled as such. Be confident; raise your hand in the classroom, speak up when you know an answer or have something to contribute. People like to be around confident people. However, be sure that you are open to new opportunities to learn from others and from your experiences. Being curious and continuing to discover yourself and the world should be a lifelong goal. While you continue to discover and learn, it’s important to make sure you don’t use your expanding knowledge to make others feel less intelligent or uncomfortable.
Fourth: Save, serve and give.
When I reference “save” it’s not in the context of financial matters, but rather setting aside self-criticism, self-doubt, or drama for example. Collect those thoughts and set them aside if they have nothing to offer you.
Serve means thinking of others and helping someone in need. Actively look for these opportunities, and don’t wait to be asked by someone to help. You will find it rewarding to your soul to be able to give back to your community, whether it’s a stranger or someone you know.
And finally, give your family and friends the gift of yourself by spending quality time with them. Sit down and have dinner with your parents, offer to read bedtime stories to your siblings, or decide to spend an afternoon with your grandparents. Awarding your time to those you love and care about will reap rewards in so many intangible ways.
If there is one thought that young girls take away from Women’s Self Empowerment Week, it is to know that you make a decision every day on the kind of woman you want to be. Your character, your integrity, those are yours and no one can define that for you. Therefore, you have control over how you handle the speed bumps that come along in life’s journey. Now get out there and show the world that you are absolutely marvelous. It was true the day you were born and it’s true still today!
Shanterra McBride is Assistant Principal of Student Life at Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton, and is the founder and director of PLOT: Preparing Leaders of Today, an organization committed to inspiring young people to be more than what’s expected, more than what’s required, and more than what’s modeled. She is a sought-after speaker on all things related to young people, including youth development, youth leadership and issues often prominent with adolescents, such as friendships, cyber bullying, communities and teen relationships. She speaks throughout the country at schools, corporations, universities, faith-based organizations and a variety of associations, and has appeared in national magazines and television interviews.