By Patricia O’Gorman, PhD
The pressure to be thin enough, pretty enough, popular enough is difficult for any woman, but it’s especially tough for teenagers—achieving those “goals” is incredibly importance to them.
In today’s world, asking your best friend for her honest opinion doesn’t seem to be enough feedback. Teenage girls have never been bastions of self-esteem, but with today’s smartphones, YouTube, Snapchat, and other replacements for the “slam books” of past generations, feeling good about themselves is more difficult than ever.
Enter girly thoughts, the toxic self-talk that reinforces our negative beliefs about ourselves and have helped us form our identity as women. They profoundly influence how we see the world and understand our role in it . . . and they are reinforced by family, friends, and the media.
In my soon-to-be-published book, The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan, I include a quick quiz you can take to see if you’re affected by girly thoughts.
Spoiler alert: You are. We all are.
“Tell Me What You See, Even If It Hurts Me”
Over the past several years, more than half a million YouTube videos have been uploaded by young girls (most younger than fifteen) asking for feedback from total strangers with a version of the question, “Am I Pretty?” (Read the August 3, 2014 edition of the New York Times article here.) The results are astonishing and depressing, and when I read it, I couldn’t help but think “no wonder we struggle to feel ‘good enough’.”
I found this concern with looks even extended to aging—for example, spas now offer Quince and Sweet-16 Botox parties. In fact, at every age, Botox is now the most commonly used noninvasive surgical procedure (American Academy of Plastic Surgery, 2013).
As adult women, as mothers and grandmothers, aunts and neighbors, teachers and mentors, we need to let these young women know they are asking the wrong questions. We must set the example by defining ourselves and taking control of our own lives instead of basing our value on society’s norms,
As their role models move away from “Am I pretty?” to “Am I happy?” and from “Am I good enough for this guy?” to “Is this guy good enough for me?” our teenagers will have a roadmap for learning to embrace their own personal power—the direct opposite of their girly thoughts—and enjoy a future of their own creation.
This is the message behind The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan, and I invite you to join me in outing your own girly thoughts as a first step toward helping younger women see their way out of that toxic jungle. Please join me at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6iXxMoDz3o and email me at [email protected] or comment below.
Patricia A. O'Gorman, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice. She is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse and for her warm, inspiring, and amusing presentations that make complex issues accessible and even fun. She has served as a consultant to organizations across the country in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O'Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions ranging from director of a rape crisis center to clinical director of a child welfare agency, and director of the division of prevention for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She is a veteran of numerous television appearances, including Good Morning America, Today, and AM Sunday and is the author of eight books including: The Girly Thoughts 10 Day Detox Plan (2014), The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (2013), and Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting (2012) 12 Steps to Self-Parenting.