Girlhood is hard.
When I was thirteen I felt alone, lost, and confused.
It seemed as though the entire world was against me and no matter how hard I tried I could never quite fit in; in my eyes I was always the odd one out. Everywhere I went I was self conscious about other people's opinions of me. In hindsight, this hyper awareness was definitely a result of the media's influence- from TV and magazines to the emergence of social media telling me how the perfect girl SHOULD be.
Comparison, comparison, comparison- it consumed me.
But I was never quite like the girls who I aspired to be from the media.
Like so many other girls evolving through this metamorphosis I was insecure about my new being and had completely turned away from my inner voice. Instead, I turned towards these false "realities" and blindly followed them in hopes that they would fix whatever was wrong with me:
I would dumb myself down in my middle school classes because I thought girls were supposed to be stupid.
I refused to participate in gym class (despite loving track and field) because I didn't want my developing breasts to bounce around in front of the others.
I quit my junior lifeguard training because I hated the way my bathing suit showcased the cellulite on my thighs.
I would do anything to get the attention of boys at the expense of my dignity.
I looked in the mirror every morning and cried at the acne on my forehead as I applied layers upon layers of foundation to try and hide my imperfections.
I pushed away the people I was closest to because they knew who I "really" was, and lied to everyone to the point where I didn't even know what was true anymore.
Self sabotage was my daily practice, and self loathing haunted my thoughts. It might sound extreme- but this much more common than you would think among adolescent girls. In fact, self harm and suicide rates are climbing. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that about 3.2 million 12 to 17-year-olds in North America have had at least one major depressive episode.
Luckily my parents were patient and empathetic to my adolescent struggles, even though they didn't understand or agree. They also recognized that their influence would only go so far, and instead of solely pushing therapy or anti depressant medication, they empowered me and helped me move through this stage by connecting me with some incredible mentors. This is exactly what turned things around for me- having inspiring and trustworthy role models to look up to.
These mentors were not social workers, psychiatrists, or family members. Rather, they were informal role models from my after school activities and part time jobs who were just far enough removed from my personal life that I could confide in them. These mentors encouraged me and truly listened to what I had to say. I think it is important to note that this is very different from the role of a teacher or guidance counsellor which is burdened with other responsibilities.
Mentors are crucial to adolescence, and the research is there to prove it.
Recently in 2019 a meta-analysis of over 25,000 adolescence was done on the impact of mentorship. This study affirmed what many other smaller studies have found—"that mentoring has a significant effect on positive youth development" (Raposa, et. al. 2019). In short, the research indicated that having informal mentors promoted social-emotional learning, cognitive learning, and identity formation in teens. This essentially indicates that mentors can greatly support the formation of a teen's identity, the single most important task of adolescence. Thus having mentors who model the "core qualities that contribute to human thriving, like empathy, curiosity, resourcefulness, and resilience" teens are inspired to practice positive social skills and establish interpersonal connections.
Now that I am stepping into my next stage of this journey called life I am actively seeking new mentors and role models. From yoga instructors to my university TA's and my doula teachers, I am in the process of surrounding myself with wisdom and teaching from women who have been through this stage before. As I sit here reflecting on this I recall how Indigenous cultures function around the teaching of elders, and how knowledge is passed generationally through story medicine...
To me this is the epitome of mentorship.
I once read a piece of Indigenous teaching which said that knowledge is a continuum, we learn and we teach. I feel a responsibility to contribute to the cycle, and this is the primary reason why I developed the Expressions of Girlhood program. Knowing first hand the challenges of this metamorphosis I am choosing to pay it forward, to be a neutral middle ground and a shoulder for girls to learn on when they need support.
Where I am going with all of this is that,
I am excited to announce that I will now be offering customized 1:1 online and in-person coaching for self-identified girls (teens and tweens) as part of the Expressions of Girlhood program!
In all honesty, I have been waiting far too long to launch this program. It is something I have dreamed of doing for the past few years, but I have been hesitant to do so for fear of not knowing enough. Like I mentioned earlier, girls are taught to doubt themselves and to not believe in their capabilities.
But I'm through with self doubt, and I'm here to help girls be through with it too.
I will end this post here today my friends- for more information on Girlhood's coaching program check out the Expressions of Girlhood page and send me an email to book a free 30 minute discovery call.
And with that I send you love and light.