Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Who run the world? Girls!"

This past weekend I presented a workshop for the Old Dominion University Community Development Corporation Conference for Girls and Young Women. This is the 5th year of the Conference and the second time I've presented a workshop for it. Last time I talked about body image and the media, something I'm very passionate about bringing awareness to.

This year I wanted to focus on bullying between girls. There has been so much in the news about fighting between girls and kids hurting themselves or others because they were bullied. I called my workshop "Girlfriends" and focused on how to be a great friend instead of "don't bully". You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, right?

I talked to two groups of girls about how to help your friend have positive body image. I encouraged them to tell their friends things that they like about them that are not related to how they look. They were really engaged and gave lots of examples of what they liked about their friends (their good attitude, their humor, they're there for them when they need them, etc...) I suggested that by focusing on the positive things not related to their appearance their friend would learn to value themselves outside of how they look. We also talked about how women and girls are portrayed in the magazines and TV and how that focus makes us feel like we aren't beautiful or good enough.  Some of them didn't know about Photoshop and were pretty surprised that the models don't even look like that in real life.

By helping their friend focus on the positives and not on their looks, I suggested that their true friends would do the same for them. This would help them weed through the not so good friends who made them feel bad about themselves. You could see that they were really excited to try this out with their friends. One group of three were all best friends and I heard them whisper things they liked about each other while I was talking. I let that one slide because it was so sweet. :-)

I introduced them to Operation Beautiful and had them make their own sticky notes. They really loved this. Everybody likes arts and crafts! I gave them just a few examples and they ran with it. Instead of making just one they made 4 or 5 each because they were so excited about the idea. This is one of my favorite things to talk to people about. It's so inspiring and easy to do! (Awesome idea Caitlin!) I told them about how when this was done at ODU with the college students someone posted a photo on
Instagram of one of the sticky notes they were handed with the caption "this instantly made my day". They were excited that they could make a difference this way.

I also showed them the trailer for the Finding Kind documentary. In the clip it talked about how so many girls experience being picked on by another girl and how much it really hurts. The room got very quiet and I could tell that some if not all fo them had experienced this. I encouraged them to talk to their parents or caregivers, guidance counselors or teachers at school so they could get help in addition to talking it out with their friends. (Great idea Lauren & Molly!)

I asked them if they were on Facebook and all of them raised their hands. The age range was 10-13 and they're all on Facebook! I don't know why that surprised me. LOL Anyway, we talked about the quality of friends not the quantity, especially when it comes to Facebook. You can have 400 friends on Facebook but only a handful of them are usually your good friends. We discussed how to stay safe online (blocking people, not sharing too much information and upping their privacy settings) and how social media is a place where a lot of girls get bullied these days. I encouraged them to only post positive things about each other and they will see how their real friends will do the same for them.

I did mention to them how holding those feelings of being bullied inside can cause some people to hurt themselves or others and that is why they need to get help. Part of being a good friend is also letting an adult know if your friend is being bullied. I think with any difficult topic like bullying it's easier to think about getting help for a friend than for yourself. I told them that they certainly wouldn't want anyone to bully their friend so why would the let someone do it to themselves.

We talked about encouraging our friends to pursue their dreams, help them identify potential barriers to reaching their goals and helping them find ways around those barriers. I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up and got a diverse range of answers: engineer, cosmetologist, track star, lawyer, doctor, and nail technician. I introduced them to Girls Can't What? and talked about how women and girls are still sometimes discouraged from pursing their dreams in certain fields because they are female but to not listen to the haters and go after what they want in life. They loved this too, especially that they could get shirts and bags and things with the logo showing girls doing the things they are doing or want to do. (Great idea Gretchen! Not me, by the way, another Gretchen.)

We closed by making friendship cards for their best friends. They were to tell their friend everything they liked about being their friend that had nothing to do with their looks or popularity. They really got into this too. There was this group of three girls who were best friends and it was heartwarming to watch them exchange and read their cards.

It went really well and I got hugs at the end! I love hugs but I was totally not expecting them. Doing this workshop was so fulfilling for me. I could tell not only by their body language but also from their comments how all the things we talked about really hit home for them. I felt like I might have made a difference in some of their lives and for me that is reaching my dream. I want all girls to feel like there's nothing stopping them from being who they want to be, just like how I felt when I was growing up thanks to my super awesome mom and encouraging dad. I also want them to treat each other with kindness because there is already so many barriers to their success that we don't need to hold each other down. So, if you have any girls in your life, encourage their dreams and tell them how awesome they are, not just beautiful.

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