The workshop itself was a blend of education, activity and communication to raise awareness of self-esteem, offer strategies for dealing with difficult situations (including bullying), and finally to validate these young women and empower them to make positive choices for themselves, which included advice for healthy eating. Healthy food choices was definitely one area that I felt could have been its own workshop; along with “realistic body images” and “positive self talk”. Although this is an area most adults still struggle with, I am convinced that our damaging perceptions of ourselves and our unhealthy relationships with food begins as young as 5-6 years old. If this could be addressed at a young age, a life of healthy thought patterns and wellness could be set in motion.
Another issue that was made crystal clear today was the pressure that young women put on themselves to live up to the unrealistic representations of beauty that the media has inundated them with. It is nothing less than tragic. I think it is even more challenging for this generation of young women because they not only have to contend with television commercials and magazines, but they also now have the internet which is engineered to flood them with messages of inadequacy… all calculated to ensure consumerism in these future spenders.
There are programs on the internet designed to recognize search patterns of “surfing behavior” and throw specific advertisements in front of users. It is not random or left to chance…it is a carefully orchestrated maneuver to gear advertising towards not only specific demographics, but specifically to YOU. How scary is that? (Imagine, those programs, if put into the wrong hands, could manipulate an entire culture…. But I digress.)
Is it effective as hell? You bet! Ever wonder how the ads in front of you seem to play right into your desires or insecurities? It is not a coincidence that a few days ago you were Googling exercise tips or healthy recipes and suddenly ads are popping up all over the place advertising weight loss clinics, diet pills and health clubs. As adults, we have the capacity to rationalize and better understand this process. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for our young people. Those “messages” are playing right into their insecurities and their feelings of “I am just not good enough”.
I truly feel for this generation of young people because they have a vast cornucopia of mixed media messages contributing to their head trash; way more than we ever had. It is constantly in their face. What tools can we offer our children to ensure that they have the self-confidence strong enough to prevail over blatant commercialism that is designed to evoke pain to sell products? It dawned on me today, that now more than ever, workshops like RISE UP are imperative for our youth to empower them to be critical thinkers and secure, well adjusted grown-ups. It is my responsibility, and that of other coaches, to utilize our skills towards mentoring our youth and help them understand the importance of setting and reaching their own personal goals. Nothing is more powerful than personal accomplishment in building self-esteem and confidence.
My goal moving forward is to put together and facilitate a free support group for young women, ages 15-18 to offer them a safe forum in which to share their challenges, beliefs, and goals; and support one another through mutual understanding and recognition. My purpose as a coach would be to mentor and encourage them to set goals, offer strategies to overcome any barriers or limiting beliefs, and offer new skills that allow them to make effective choices and raise their self-esteem; so that they can move forward in their lives with purpose and confidence. I see an opportunity for other educators, coaches and mentors, who share my passion, to participate in these sessions and share their knowledge with these young women. Imagine the ripple effect! We could contribute to a culture of courageous, confident, independent young women that will have the tools they need to be critical thinkers and positively impact the universe.
Agree or disagree? Please take a few moments to share your questions, comments or general observations on the topic.