You don’t have to be 10 years old to appreciate the you-go-girl message in the Always #LikeAGirl campaign, that shines light on the fact that girls’ confidence drops just before puberty. I found myself wondering how certain decisions I made due to low self-esteem – like quitting ringette in grade seven or not trying out for field hockey in high school – affected me, and if I'm still hiding behind an "I can't do it" mentality.
This week Always unveiled the latest installment of the #LikeAGirl YouTube videos. “Unstoppable,” which was launched in New York City with Maisie Williams who plays kick-butt, sword-tossing Arya in Game of Thrones, follows up the 2014 video where people are asked to demonstrate what it looks like to run, fight and throw “like a girl.” (It’s when little girls are asked to do the same things that we see how insulting the phrase is to them.) In “Unstoppable,” women and girls are asked to write on a box what society tells them about being girls. That same day Always released stats on girls’ self-esteem, a curriculum program and a partnership with TED. So what does all of this have to do with us personally? Well, first, I couldn’t help but be touched when I saw it. Not just for the girls, but also for myself and other women. Did my decisions to drop sports and sit at the back of the class for math affect me as an adult? What can I do about it now? “The confidence gap can be linked to everything from eating disorders, to risky sexual behaviours, and drug and alcohol abuse,” Rachel Simmons, author and educator, tells me after the video presentation. “Confidence is the backbone to every choice we make. If we have it we make better choices.” She and the other panel experts shared how we can be more confident as adult women. 1. Stop the negative self-talk What are your talents? What could you improve on? Likely the second list will be longer than the first. Why is that? Williams says: “Negative comments resonate in the head a lot longer [than positive comments].” And Lauren Greenfield, photographer and filmmaker, (she’s the voice in the viral videos asking the questions), tells me: “There’s power in language to alter our behaviour. The phrase 'like a girl' is deeply disempowering and derogatory.” So the next time you’re feeling low, think about the words you’re using in your head. Are they limiting or negative? 2. Be fearless We have this idea that our talents are natural. Psychologist Dr. Carissa Romero calls this “fixed assets,” which is the idea that you have certain abilities and you can’t change that. As successful as Greenfield is, she says: “As women we doubt ourselves more [than men], and say as 'maybe I shouldn’t be doing this because it’s hard.' I have that part of me that likes trying new things and taking on new challenges, but I do definitely have that voice.” It leads to thinking that if something requires effort, then you’re not good at it. Simmons adds to that when she tells me: “Confidence is not something you’re born with – it’s a set of skills.” You have to practice being confident. “It’s never too late to change your life. Speaking personally, later in my life, I decided to be more of a risk taker and to stop trying to do everything perfectly. On purpose, I take on things that I’m not good at and try to make failure something that I’m more comfortable with. So it’s never too late.” Her tip: Ask yourself why you won’t do something and recognize why you’re holding yourself back. 3. Speak up Instead of speaking up, Simmons says we “up speak,” where we make a statement sound like a question. She says many women also apologize before answering a question in case their answer isn’t right, refrain from sharing an opinion or rehearse it over and over in her head what they'll say. But the answer isn’t in acting like a man. “It’s complicated. Women are told to act like men and when they do they’re punished for that, and seen as masculine and unlikeable,” says Simmons. “The problem is that we masculinize the qualities associated with confident behaviours.” She says it’s more about being authentic in who you are and how you ask for things (like a raise) or share your perspective. 4. Appreciate yourself As women we’re trained to want and work for compliments about our outer beauty and we give them to other women unconsciously. (“Love your hair, by the way.”) “The body had become a primary expression of identity for girls and women, as well as a source of insecurity,” says Greenfield of what she discovered in one of her documentaries. From this recent video she says that she was moved by the pain women and girls felt from being told they were “pretty” and “cute.” For many, it meant they weren’t taken seriously. And then there is the pain from the absence of this type of praise as we get older. The only answer to this is to appreciate who you are, your body for what it does for you and to not take superficial flattery to heart too much. 5. Support girls (and women) There are not enough words to express how powerful it is to help and advocate for each other. “We need to support each other, because there are already enough people out there who want to knock you down,” says Williams.
Lisa Hannam is Glow's health editor and unofficial guinea pig for test-driving new workouts, fitness gear and nutrition trends. When not combing through food label claims and evaluating new vitamins and supplements, Lisa can be found at her desk most days, translating the medical journal jargon into understandable English. Follow her on Instagram @lisahannam, Twitter @lisahannam, as well as on Pinterest at pinterest.com/lisahannam and tumblr at lisahannam.tumblr.com.