By AMANDA BEAM
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Confidence in oneself. Broadway songs tout it. Teachers preach it. Even the occasional Disney princess exemplifies it.
Yet somehow the message doesn’t seem to be resonating with kids nowadays, particularly with girls. Just look at the numbers. According to a 2005 Dove Global Study, 92 percent of the young women surveyed indicated that they wanted to change one characteristic of their physical appearance. Most often, the one aspect they would target was their weight. In similar research, 60 percent of girls avoided certain activities “because they feel bad about their looks,” with almost a fifth of respondents not trying out for teams or clubs due to these insecurities.
Understanding the long-term consequences of low self-esteem, local children’s non-profit organization Open Door Youth Services recently provided a day of fun and learning for girls in the area. Fifty young women ages eight to 17 from diverse backgrounds spent the morning discovering ways to keep their bodies, spirit and mind healthy. Children from both Clark and Floyd counties were represented at the event.
“Self-esteem for girls affects their whole life. It affects their job. It affects how they raise their children, how they treat their children. It affects them in interviews,” said Angela Graf, the community liaison for Open Door Youth Services. “It’s important at a young age to let them know that no one controls how they feel about themselves except them.”
Free to all participants, the Esteem Makeover program was funded by grants from the Business Professional Women of New Albany and the New Albany Rotary Club. Graceland Baptist Church provided the facilities.
Although most of the lessons followed the plan of skin care giant Dove’s “Real Beauty” workshops, Graf said Open Doors added a few fun activities of their own. Besides makeup, hair, hygiene and etiquette tips, the girls were also treated to exercise classes and talks from prominent local leaders.
“For our young girls and our young ladies, when they feel better about themselves, we all prosper from that because they are able to be the best they can be when they feel that inside and that’s what this program is all about,” said Floyd County Superior Court Judge Maria Granger, a speaker at the event. “If there is a parent listening, they should let their daughter take part in something like this and make it a priority.”
Scribner seventh grader Ella Harrison had a slightly different take on the day. The 13-year-old accompanied the other participants through the workshop, only to reveal that she was one of the selected speakers in the afternoon. With a quick change into her crown and sash, Harrison, who currently serves as National American Miss Indiana Pre-Teen, discussed how beauty needs to be more than skin deep. Currently competing this week for the national title in California, Harrison doesn’t wear make-up during any of the pageants.
“Young women think they have to be picture-perfect like the magazines show, like social media shows,” Harrison said. “But I think they can say ‘I am beautiful without makeup. I am confidant. I am strong.’ And it shows you can get through things without having to be that picture-perfect girl.”
With more than 25 young women currently on the wait list for the next Esteem Makeover, Graf said she plans to have another session sometime this spring. In the future, the organization also hopes to add a similar program for boys so they too can learn about greater self-confidence.
“Dove doesn’t have anything right now for boys, but I feel pretty good that we can create something similar that teaches them integrity, self-respect, respecting women,” Graf said. “Self-worth is worth a million dollars in any world. If the girls and boys feel confident and good about themselves, they’ll do better in everything in life.”
For more information on registration or how to donate or volunteer, contact Open Door Youth Services by phone at 812-948-5481 or visit its website at www.opendooryouthservices.com.