Why is it so hard to be good to ourselves? That’s the question Dr. Lisa Lowery, an adolescent medicine specialist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, had middle school girls thinking about during an event called Beautiful U.
“So often we don’t give ourselves credit for what we do well,” said Lowery, who challenged an auditorium of middle school girls to name three positive things about themselves.
“Be yourself. Love yourself every day,” Lowery implored them at the Ferris State University Applied Technology Center. “Text three good things about yourself to yourself. Give yourself a positive affirmation.”
She reminded the students from Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming Public Schools that social media and comparisons often create unrealistic expectations and a false sense of reality. “No one’s life is as perfect as their Instagram or their Twitter feed. You are watching their highlight reel,” Lowery said.
Girls need to embrace who they are, she emphasized.
“We are constantly comparing ourselves to other women, other people and what other people have … but remember, you are you,” she said. “You are special. You are great. … Focus on the positive.”
The Beauty in Yourself
The Grand Rapids event, hosted by WOTV 4 Women host Maranda, included activities and speakers focused on health and wellness, fashion and beauty, career pathways and anti-bullying as well as healthy snacks and beauty stations. Dancer Amanda LaCount, who has performed on the Ellen DeGeneres show and with Katy Perry, also shared her message of overcoming bullying and signed autographs.
‘You are special. You are great. Focus on the positive.’ — Dr. Lisa Lowery, adolescent medicine specialist
Maranda, who has hosted the youth empowerment workshop for 10 years, said she started the event because of an essay her daughter, Alli Cook, wrote about self-esteem issues as a teenager. Cook, 23, attends Beautiful U every year to read the essay to girls.
“I was like, ‘Are you kidding? We have been talking positive self-esteem since you were a baby,’” Maranda said about hearing her daughter’s essay. “I thought if my kid’s feeling this, there’s got to be a lot of girls her age questioning their value.”
Carolyn King, a child psychiatrist for Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, said many girls struggle with self-esteem, anxiety and depression. She said children are under a lot of stress due to unrealistic expectations, sleep deprivation and academics. She told girls to think about the face they show the world and the impact of what they put out there. Changing your perspective helps.
“It’s very easy to beat up on yourself and nitpick all the little things about yourself that are wrong, just like lint balls on a sweater,” King said. “You look at a sweater and see all the lint balls instead of seeing the beautiful color of the sweater.”
Technology and Plastic Surgery
Ottawa Hills High School senior Syena Moore volunteered at the event. She said the messages still resonate with her as an older teen.
“I feel like this can be useful for everyone,” Syena said. “This has kind of been helping me out too — to be able to help and talk to other girls about loving themselves. I know what it feels like to not love yourself.”
Judith Mapendi, an eighth-grader at Crestwood Middle School in Kentwood, said girls constantly receive messages about their body and looks. “All of that is just plastic. The procedures people go through are not healthy at all,” Judith said.
Crestwood Middle School seventh-grader Paige Reynolds said she sees constant technology use having a negative effect on people’s self-esteem.
“As technology grows, people tend to get farther apart from each other,” Paige said. “That also makes it so people feel more alone. That might not be good for health, and as people grow they may never learn how to take care for themselves.”
Wyoming Junior High seventh-grader Abby Kramer said Beautiful U helped “girls be confident in their own bodies and love their images.” She summed it up with a well-known quote:
“Why try to fit in when you were born to stand out?”