Mary Ricketson, the Cherokee county Netwest Representative, writes a column for the Cherokee Scout newspaper entitled Woman to Woman. Copied below are the contents of her column for the issue of September 25, 2013, important because of its emphasis on helping girls develop their self esteem. Thank you, Mary!
"Last month, on August 26, we celebrated women’s equality day. We are well versed by now about the gains women have made in the past century, starting with the right to vote, on down to women in leadership and our growth toward equal pay. Women’s opportunities today are better, even though we have not made it to full equality.
Still, girls’ self esteem and girls’ academic achievement tend to drop during the teen years, starting in middle school.
Low self esteem means someone thinks she is less than her peers, maybe unworthy, un-loveable, even incompetent. It does not mean it is true, it just feels true. Eventually this low self esteem type thinking can lead to self defeating behavior.
Teenage girls are very aware of their looks and about what males think of them. Teen girls who have a poor self concept are more likely than others to engage in behaviors with boys that they will later regret. They sell themselves short in expectations for education and employment.
Perception is not always accurate. For instance, 7 out of 10 girls are said to believe they are not as good as their peers. This is all about how they feel about their appearance, their grades, and their relationships with anybody. A girl’s self esteem relates less to her actual body weight and more to how she perceives her body.
So, for all the opportunities in today’s life, why do so many girls lag behind? Sometimes it is fear of success. Other times it is the age-old fear of being smarter than boys. Always, in our society there is great pressure for girls to look good. We are surrounded by pictures of good looks that are impossible to achieve.
Girls are great. Girls are wonderful. In all shapes and sizes, talents, interests and achievements, girls are individuals with something unique to offer. Girls who take physical risks are more confident individuals, even if not athletic. Girls who engage in cooperative activities gain self esteem. Girls who receive recognition for accomplishments grow self respect.
To counteract the downward spiral of self esteem, let’s help a girl have specific positive experiences. Help her find an activity she loves, something she can pursue with all her brains and guts. Let her make choices and decisions for herself whenever possible. Encourage her to solve issues independently. Allow her to express her own opinions, even disagree. Respect her. Let her know you like or love her because of who she is, not simply for how she looks.
Find more at dosomething.org, pbs parents, and dove.us, girls unstoppable.
Credits: Mary Ricketson makes her home in Cherokee county. She is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Murphy. She has a special interest in women’s issues."