A Letter to Our Girls.

*Please note, this contains mild swearing (because we all know you swear, OK?).

First of all, let me start out with this. We didn’t have social media when I was a teenager. And for that I am truly grateful, because honestly, I don’t know how I would have coped. Being a teenager and young woman is hard enough on its own let alone with the 3 million layers of added bullshit that you’re growing up with today. And for that I am truly sorry. I am sorry that all these fancy and cool new apps, platforms and shiny new things have been generated without a contingency plan that involves protecting you from heavy shit that you shouldn’t be dealing with at your age.

I’m sorry that you have to think about what filter you will apply to your images to do what you feel improves them.

I’m sorry that your idols are doing shitty photoshopping jobs on their own social media platforms which are supposedly intended to be a means of delivering a more candid portrayal of their lives and themselves to their fans.

I’m sorry that we are not protecting you enough and we are not giving you enough concrete pathways to work through if you are experiencing harassment or bullying.

And I am so, so sorry that beautiful, irreplacable young women are taking their lives as a result.

So I feel it is my duty as a 37 year old to throw you some ideas based on my own experiences.

But first of all let me say this to you: I think you are magnificent. I think right now you have an amazing reserve of untapped potential. I know the fire that burns within us as young women and the potential it has to change the world – IF you move forward without letting the world around you extinguish it.

~ Don’t Buy the Lie. Next time you see something in your newsfeed or on TV, or in any medium that makes you feel slightly shitty about yourself, take a moment to identify what EXACTLY it was and ask yourself one question: Is this post/person/ad trying to sell me something? Traditional forms of marketing are based on eliciting an emotive response from the audience in order to motivate an emotionally-based purchase of their product or service, and unfortunately for us, the easiest go-to emotion is self-loathing.

The thing is, when you get to my age, you realise how good the ‘you’re not good enough but you CAN be better if you buy this product’ marketing angle has been over the years in framing just what you think of yourself. People are making millions out of making us feel shitty about ourselves and they have done for years. Exploiting self-esteem is a business model, and this machine is SO GOOD at what it does that you don’t even know its doing it – unless you start asking that question: Is this post/person/ad trying to sell me something?

But nowadays you all have the added fun of your influencers on social media selling you stuff too. Many brands are transferring money from traditional advertising mediums and they are putting into social media influencers. So again, if you’re looking at a post which is giving you that twinge which precedes some form of “I really need to X/Y/Z” or “I want to look like that” or “I want that life” ask yourself the question: Is this post/person/ad trying to sell me something?

Don’t buy the lie of ‘enough’. Call out any marketing that makes you feel the least bit yucky or inferior. Make the marketing departments use their creative flare to develop another way to promote the brand. Make them think.

You are not flawed. Because women have been calling out the ‘not enough’ marketing angle for a number of years, some creative geniuses have found a way to promote the same message using a wolf in sheep’s clothing: ’embrace your flaws.’ I say f&*k that. You are not flawed. The Cambridge English Dictionary  defines the term ‘flaw’ as:

“a fault, mistake, or weakness, especially one that happens while something is being planned or made, or that causes something not to be perfect.”

You can have a flaw in your plans. A flaw in the way something has been constructed. This term has no natural association with your personality, or your physical being. It is a socially constructed connection made by people still trying to make you feel less than anything you are right now: magnificent. Flawless.

So again, when something or someone tells you to ’embrace your flaws’, put it in the bullshit pile of things that don’t serve you and move forward in your magnificence.

~ Stop dieting. Now THAT is a flawed process. 50 odd years ago a study led by Dr Jules Hirsch found that dieting was generally ineffective in sustaining weight loss. Yet a multi-billion dollar dieting industry still blossomed with the promises that you can do it – but with their help. If that doesn’t have you asking questions, I don’t know what will.

Eat healthy. Restricting your dietary intake is not good for you and really messes with your body. Take this advice as golden from someone who had dieted and restricted their food intake for 29 of the 37 years on this planet. Learn about nutrition from a source who has no agenda to sell you anything except their belief in you developing your own knowledge. There are some great nutritionists who will help you navigate through the bullshit and are passionate about doing so because of their own experiences with disordered eating. Someone like Lyndi Cohen  is great to follow and source information from. Do your research and find someone who will empower you with independent knowledge.

But let me say this: you are worth the investment of developing the knowledge required to be autonomous in your nutritional choices. You are the one and only Captain of the Ship that is your body – go forth and guide it.

~ Don’t Mould Yourself to what you think is more likeable or desirable. If I had a dollar for every article I read in my younger days titled ‘What Boys Really Like/Want/Think is Sexy’ I would be writing this from my own Palace of Awesome. Seriously, even as an adult I spent so much time moulding myself to what I thought would make me more appealing, or would ‘fit’ better with my then-affection’s interests that I made the most awesome elements of ‘me’ take a back seat to what I thought they wanted.

The truth of the matter is this: the person you end up with in the long run will be the person who appreciates every single aspect of YOU. The sick you. The tired you. The ‘I’m not doing my hair today’ you. All of you. But you’re not going to find that person if you don’t let them acquaint with all that you are  – without apology. And if by being yourself means that some things don’t work out, then thats ok – be proud that you stayed true to yourself and move on.

~ Spend some time on your own. I know that being single feels like the pits sometimes. Everyone’s all loved up and here you are, watching Netflix in your big comfy undies with your cat. But the thing is, you learn so much about what you are capable of doing on your own as opposed to settling with something that may not serve you for the sake of not being alone.

Many of the amazingly strong women I know have spent a decent amount of time being single, and its usually for good reason. You see, there will be times where you will have to cope with significant shit on your own. Where you will have to dig deep into your reserves and use every bit of resilience you have to go forward alone. At times like this, knowing you have done it before can be the reassurance you need to ‘just keep going.’

Don’t buy into the pressure to be Happy. Now by all means, clap along with Pharrell as much as you feel drawn to, however one of the greatest pressures I hear you all talk about these days is the pressure you feel to be happy all.the.time. Here’s the thing: happiness is a emotion, and emotions tend to ebb-and-flow across the days, hours, and even minutes. Unfortunately for you these days, social media sells you happiness as much as it sells you ‘not enough’. If this is where you find most of your happiness-envy coming from, ask yourself the question we discussed earlier: Is this post/person/ad trying to sell me something? And if you get the slightest whiff of a ‘sell’, unfollow and have a dig around for more authentic role models. Look for the person who is showing that they have shitty days as often as they have awesome ones.

~ Be the change you want to see in the world. Think of what you feel the world needs more of and action it in your daily life. Feel like there needs to be more authenticity and honesty in a world of filters and photoshopping? Opt out of using them and lead the way. Do we need to have a more compassionate world? Then practice compassion, but please for the love of all the Unicorns start by being compassionate within yourself first.

You are at a phase in your life where you have the potential to activate great change, because you are idealistic, driven, and passionate. Tap into this fire, harness it and let it drive you in making the change you want to see in this world. Remember that whilst we are all the future, you are in the drivers seat when it comes to real active change and you need to….

~ Speak up, people are listening. Brands are currently dropping millions of dollars into efforts to try and figure you lot out. There has never been a more important time to speak up and speak honestly about what YOU want when it comes to interactions in your daily life. Companies are spending big dollars trying to work out how to best market to you, because it seems that y’all don’t buy into the bulls*^t as easily as our generations have previously done (and I love this about you).

Don’t tell them what you think they want to hear. Tell them the truth and they can either adapt and move forward or keep things ‘as they are’ and become obsolete. Let them make that decision for themselves.

~ Realise how powerful ‘opting out’ is. This is pretty much an underlying theme of everything I have covered so far regarding social media and online marketing. You see, many news outlets, Facebook pages, even blogs, rely on creating lead lines or topics that place us in a position of judgment and conflict with one another. Now being a millennial I’m sure you know this already, but the outlets who post this shit aren’t sitting there assessing how constructive the arguments being made are. They are counting. They are counting the likes, comments, shares, unique views, as these are the new performance indicators.

If they post a topic or article which sees a shitstorm of arguments, trolling, and outrage, you can be guaranteed they will post another one, because to them this is their best mode of performance. Which is why we all have an enormous power of opting out. Not sharing. Unfollowing. Disengaging. This is a power we all have and again goes back to the marketing concept – if these clever folks realise that these posts aren’t trending anymore, they’ll have to go back and rethink their approach.

~ Pull your shoulders back and stand tall.  If there is only one thing you do out of this entire list, let it be this. Now I’m not talking from a ‘no one likes a poor posture’ or ‘its good for your abs’ angle, I’m talking about establishing your space in this world and bloody well owning it.

~ Talk openly about not feeling great. We need this SO BADLY in our society right now. Because for all the lovely shiny things social media gives us, we are under pressure to save face, to only publicly talk about our gratitude, happiness, contentment or life-is-awesomeness. We have thousands of followers but few true human connections. We are ‘social’ as ever yet lonely as hell. And the statistics around self-harm and suicide are too dire to ignore any longer.

I guarantee you the moment you openly speak about not feeling great or not having a great day, someone will thank you for your openness. And then they will talk about how they feel, and someone else will  be thankful for their openness. And so on and so forth.

Life is about highs, lows, and the plateaus in between. This is the one common experience we all have as humans and it is time we all reconnected together through it.

~ Its not you, its them. About 80% of the negativity directed towards us from other people is generally a result of them projecting something of themselves on you. People who go out of their way to inflict negativity toward you about some aspect of your personality/appearance/intellect are generally motivated by their own sense of lacking in that area within themselves. You will notice this on a more common or extreme level if you are outspoken, confident, intelligent or have a strong sense of individuality. Take this nugget of wisdom from someone who has experienced this from my teens – it will be hard to ignore but you need to identify it and deflect it because you cannot deny the world your gifts because of someone else’s inability to sort their own shit out.

~ Your worth has no metric value. Despite what the world is telling you, there is no actual means of measuring worth. It cannot be measured by kilograms, centimetres, dollars, likes, or followers. I really, really, need you to understand this so every time it is very subtly (or overtly) suggested to you, you can call bulls*^t and move on. Only you can truly know your worth and please make sure you feel your own worth.

~ Connect with nature. I remember being told this when I was younger and wrote it off as hippy nonsense. But now I totally get it. There is something truly special about connecting with nature, whether its a swim in the ocean or a trail run. Nature has the ability to calm our minds by connecting with our souls. When you feel conflicted or in stress, go for a swim, sit at the beach, or simply get outside with bare feet and connect to Mother Earth. It doesn’t need to be a selfie from a summit, its just a simple, quiet, powerful connection.

~ Don’t buy the fitness lie. Factually and scientifically speaking, sweat is not fat crying. Abs cannot be made in your kitchen. There is no such thing as a bikini body. You can engage in fitness for reasons other than burning off your last meal or punishing yourself for missing yesterday’s workout.

Fitness is a technical term which describes how your energy systems respond when conditioned by different forms of activity. You develop fitness over time. Fitness is not a moral obligation but it can help our bodies function at increased capacity.

Movement on the other hand, is how you choose to develop fitness. This is where you go nuts trying loads of different activities and find the ones you enjoy doing. Movement can challenge us, sooth us, and nurture our bodies.

Here’s the thing. Movement in general can mean so much more to us than what is pushed at us or is conveyed. We don’t even have to go to a gym if we don’t want to. We can play sports. We can go for a run. We can ride a bike. We can rollerblade. We can dance. We can stretch. We can lift heavy things. The list really is endless and we can try them all.

The problem is that there is so much money to be made by motivating you to workout (usually whatever way they are promoting) from a position of feeling shitty about yourself that this whole fitness space is bloody hard to get an independent grasp on. So this, like nutrition and marketing, is where you ask yourself the key question: Is this post/person/ad trying to sell me something? 

And remember the power you have to opt out, unfollow, and disengage from media which makes you feel ‘guilted’ into working out. You should feel inspired to give something a go, not because you feel your body is something that needs to be fixed.

~ Don’t be a bully. Seriously, if you have found that you are a bit of (or a lot of) a bully, then please stop for a second and ask yourself this question: why does making other people feel bad about themselves make me feel better?

You weren’t born a bully. And I’m sorry that something along the way has made you feel you need to find power by taking someone else’s away from them, but the truth is that you’re not lacking in power. In fact, you hold a lot of power in your ability to stop before you assert yourself over someone else because you remember that you are enough as you are and you don’t need to do this to someone else. Transferring personal angst and pain onto someone else is easy. Maybe consider stepping up and using your time and energy to heal yourself and move forward. You are worth the effort.

~ Say ‘no’ without apology or explanation. Go on, you can do it. You did it when you were four, before we got in your ear and told you it was abrupt/rude/not nice. Just say No. End story.

~ Stand up, speak up, and question everything. Never stop doing any of these. This is very important because you will at times be encouraged not to do any, and these are usually the times or situations in which you REALLY need to keep pushing and be heard. There are also people who feel powerless to stand up or speak up themselves, and there may be times where you need to be a voice for them as well as yourself. Just never stop standing up, speaking up, or questioning.

~ Know that I believe in you. There will be times where you may not believe you are capable of something, or days where self-belief is hard to rustle up. But please know this: I wholeheartedly believe in you. I believe that you are capable of amazing things. I believe you can achieve your goals. I believe you are worthy of the most fulfilling experiences life has to offer. I believe in your strength and I believe in your fearlessness. At times where you experience doubt or insecurity, please know that I believe in you.

I think you are all magnificent. I think you all have the potential to change the world for the better. I believe you will move forward and break down barriers, smash through glass ceilings and blaze through unchartered territory. My belief in what you have the potential to achieve energises me and keeps me motivated to keep moving with my own message. Just keep stepping up. Keep asking questions. Call out the bullshit. Refuse to judge. Discard what doesn’t serve you. Don’t buy the sell. Don’t use the shoulders of others to build yourself up.

Stay true to yourself, be fearless in your authenticity and watch the world change as a result.

You are and always will be the brightest star in your own Universe.

xx Leah





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