The oh so lovely Demi Lovato asks us a delightful, yet perplexing question. What is, in fact, wrong with being CONFIDENT? And then comes a tizzy of debate among girls and women alike. Many say aloud or attempt to believe that the strongest women showcase that strength through supporting other women and cheering on their successes. If this is true, why do some women pause or scoff while others chant with glee when women and teens exude confidence? So. Much. To. Discuss.
Let me back this up a bit. I’m a 4’10’’ adult female with a body that is ever evolving by 30 pounds. Yep. 30 pounds of up and down on a 4’10’’ woman’s body. Let’s explore this.
In the 90s when I was in high school, I longed for nothing more than to be what I am not and can never be, which is long and slender and lean as a fit machine. After not making the cheerleading squad and losing my middle school cheer identity AND friends, I fell into depression that involved binge eating after school. Furthermore, I come from a Southern family of REAL butter supporters and healthy helpings of food to demonstrate love. I’m grateful that my mom didn’t keep me on a scale sipping asparagus juice out of a straw though. The reality of watching my friends have boys like them when I felt that I was too fat for anyone to see me that way destroyed me. I was a late bloomer. By college, the young men were interested, but there was a gaping problem. I wasn’t confident. I’m going to argue loud and proud here that because I was not confident, I spiraled into a cycle that I’d like to refer to as, “Choose the man who chases you the hardest.” Lord, help us. Had I been a confident young woman treating my spirit, standards, and body like a temple, my story would not have taken dark turns. Let’s stop this story for this blog and move it on into 2020.
Psychologists explore the impact of social media and our girls, and we know now that more than ever our girls are drowning in anxiety and depression. Long gone are the days when tripping over your Converse or stiletto or ankle boot at a party are quickly discussed and then diminish into the evening. Not anymore. That highlight on Instagram keeps that awkward moment going and going. Not to mention the FOMO and agony of seeing live footage of the party you were not invited to attend. My inner teenage spirit is crushed for our girls. Taking it back even further before social media affected our girls, a 1991 study by the American Association of University women announced that girls "lose their self-esteem on the way to adolescence." 1991, my middle school heart is listening and taking notes. Then in 2002, the Girl Scout Council started a program to "address the critical nationwide problem of low self-esteem among adolescent and pre-adolescent girls." Many a book focuses on our girls during adolescence explaining that our girls often have many interests and strong opinions that become stifled as they enter the age group for dating. While this isn’t always the case, and while the power of women’s voices are changing society today, the internal struggle of feeling confident as a teen and young woman can have long-lasting dangerous impacts for women. The pairing of low self-esteem and domestic violence and abuse unfortunately go together. This is a harsh reality. When our girls and women have that confidence and self-worth, they have the power from the start of a negative relationship to walk away. When a peer or significant other leaves you feeling out of sorts, confused, and like you have lost the power of your voice and opinions, find someone you trust to talk to and make a move to get out of a friendship or relationship that can go from mildly disturbing to traumatic.
As our girls become teens and young women, temptations will arise. Relationships will become increasingly complicated, and figuring out your personality, beliefs, and gifts are part of becoming the woman God created you to be. Speaking of God, I can’t encourage Youth Groups enough for our teens. Having a safe space among peers led by a faithful, kind, open leader can lead to a support system while exploring life situations. A sense of belonging and being included matters. Let’s give our girls and teens that home for open conversations, and the reality is that our girls and teens do not always turn to their parents for this. Mentors, counselors, and youth groups are often that safe space for our girls.
To my tweens, teens, and ladies, be you. You are valuable. You are beautiful. You have special gifts that God has given to exactly you, and I want you to shine your light in this world in your way. So, find that inner strength. Don’t be a doormat, speak up, stand up, and “Tawanda” it up like Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes, the film. Start today. Today in your teens. Your 20s. Your 30s. Your oh so fabulous 40s and 50s and beyond.
As for Demi Lovato’s question about being confident, let’s answer it with this: NOT A DARN THING. Be you! Be confident! Glisten and glow, sister.
Mrs. Evelyn Educates