Moments of self-doubt haunt us more often than we’d like, and usually hit without warning. We suddenly start to question our abilities, and the confidence we’ve built up over time drains away in an instant. Thoughts start racing through our minds as we reflect on what happened and start worrying about the possible outcomes. Such a moment happened to me recently, and the experience left me wondering why girls are impacted so much by low self-esteem. 

The news headlines prior to the coronavirus pandemic seemed to be full of concerns regarding low self-esteem in girls and the impact it’s having on their daily lives. The findings of the 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence Report particularly stood out. According to the report, 8 in 10 women and girls feel under pressure to never make mistakes or show weakness, and more than half of girls with low body esteem struggle to be assertive. Our Girl Entrepreneurs exhibition also highlights the challenges faced by girl entrepreneurs of today, including difficulties in being taken seriously and the need to overcome prejudices and gender stereotypes. Girls and young women face discrimination in almost every country, whether that be lower pay than their male counterparts, minimal or no legal maternity pay, and sexual harassment. So, there’s no wonder that girls and young women struggle with low self-esteem. We’re constantly being reminded of historical social values whereby women (and girls) are weaker than men and our place should ultimately be within the home. If we do work, then it should be within “feminine” industries such as teaching, nursing, hairdressing, and secretarial or administration roles.

Sarah Silverman has pointed out that girls would become engineers, builders, teachers, nurses, entrepreneurs, and scientists as part of everyday life if those around us stopped hinting towards our ‘limitations’ and reinforcing traditional social values. An interesting thought, and possibly the reason why so many girls need help to realise their value. Someone once told me, “you’re far better than you think you are”, and the words have stayed with me ever since. We seem to forget the positives and instead focus on the feedback advising us how to improve. Surely, our reflections should be on both. So, taking time to think about those projects or goals completed (whether planned or otherwise) and assessing what made them successful is something I always try to do before turning to the negatives. Our achievements should never be diminished in my view, and I always wonder why so many girls/women make others doubt themselves. Are they feeling insecure themselves, or struggling to be heard? Do they feel threatened by another who is demonstrating promising ability and skills? Are they asserting power and control in an attempt to strengthen their position, or simply confident they know everything? Whichever reason applies, we should stand together in unity, and work with each other to drive change.

Supporting one another can have a powerful impact. The words “I trust you” from a co-worker or manager mean so much in a world ready to make us doubt ourselves at any moment. We need to move the world forward and words such as these go a long way to helping each of us learn how to trust and build confidence in ourselves, our abilities, and who we are. 

-Claire Amundson
Girl Museum Inc.

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