We gathered together in the cozy, darkened living room of a suburban home in southern New Jersey. Teenage girls and their mothers, our faces framed by the shimmering glow of dozens of tiny tealight candles.
One by one, the girls spoke, taking advantage of this judgement-free environment where they could safely admit to being overly critical of themselves and to having feelings of fear, shame, and embarrassment.
I looked across the room at the program leaders, my 16-year old daughter Melissa and her friend, who sat with notebooks on their laps, asking the questions that had elicited such raw, emotional responses from their peers.
"Has anyone ever made you feel uncomfortable in your own skin?"
"Have you ever felt embarrassed or ashamed of who you are?"
"How do you cope when you are feeling upset, or stressed, or out of control?"
The question and answer session came as part of a Mother/Daughter program hosted by B'nai B'rith Girls (BBG), an international Jewish youth organization focused on leadership skills, confidence building, community service, religion and spirituality, sisterhood, and friendship.
Each year, the girls in Melissa's local BBG chapter dedicate their time and resources to raising funds and awareness for a "stand-up cause". Armed with the knowledge that nearly half a million teens suffer from anorexia and bulimia, the girls unanimously chose to focus on Eating Disorder as their 2014 cause.
As chapter vice president, Melissa had played a key role in planning the Mother/Daughter program, which featured a guest speaker from The Renfrew Center, a local eating disorders treatment center, as well as the mind/body/attitude discussion that encouraged the girls to share from the heart.
They spoke of feeling awkward about their body shape. They spoke of feeling like they didn't belong. They spoke of feeling stressed, feeling pressured to do too much, to get good grades, to look just right, to be pretty, to be popular, to be thin...to fit in.
And as the girls spoke, their mothers listened.
And then we talked.
We told our daughters that we faced the same challenges, and they don't go away, but they get easier to handle the older you get. We told our daughters that we know we'll never be perfect, but we no longer care. We told our daughters that throughout our lives we've developed a deep bond with the friends who love us for who we are...and that everyone else who dares to judge us no longer matter.
We told our daughters that we wished when they looked in the mirror that they could see what we see....a teenage girl who is so incredible, so talented, and so wonderful.
We told our daughters that no matter how bad things get, no matter where they are or what they do, that they can come to us, they can talk to us, they can tell us anything because we are their best friend.
We told our daughters that we love them unconditionally.
We told our daughters that we think they are beautiful.
I just hope they think so too.
Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences. In the United States, 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives. To learn more visit the National Eating Disorders Association.
|My daughter Melissa (front row, 2nd from left) with her BBG girls!|
If you like my stories, please tell me in the comments section below.
This is beautiful, Lisa. Amazing that you have this bond with your daughter - something she will cherish, just as you do.ReplyDelete
Thank you Michelle, I have no doubt that you will enjoy the same bond with your girls when they are teens!Delete
This is a wonderful entry. Do you mind if i repost for South Jersey Region Mailings. It's Barrie, Regional Director. Thank you for sharing a wonderful experience.ReplyDelete
Hi Barrie, I would be honored! I emailed you the direct link. Thanks so much!Delete
That's an awesome experience and your "mother" responses to their concerns were spot on. You are a great parent and you obviously have a wonderful child. You should both be proud of each other.ReplyDelete
Thank you Cindy. I know that you, as the mom of 2 teenage girls, can so very relate!Delete
This is such a wonderful initiative. If only this were accessible to everyone. Girls and boys go through some very confusing times growing up, and having support like this goes a long way. I was always uncomfortable in my skin growing up. Always. I always felt ugly, fat, hairy (being Middle-Eastern surrounded by blond, fair-skinned girls). I didn't have any older sibblings or any older cousins even who could guide me through this rough phase. My mom was very young and did the best she could, but having support from a community like this can really make a huge difference and avoid disorders that may develop.ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing.
Hi Leila, I think what my daughter and her friends realized is that even the so called, perfect, popular girls feel uncomfortable in their own skin. Where in the middle east are you from?Delete
Wow this is a great post. what a super idea. I really appreciate you sharing this story. I am the mother of a tween who is already trying to find and love herself as she navigates through the tornado that is puberty. This was encouraging. I will share it so others can be blessed too!ReplyDelete
Thank you so much Tamika! I'm sure with your love and support, your tween will make it through those turbulent teen years!Delete
Love this so much. My daughter is 9, and while we haven't started dealing with these problems yet... I remember how much I struggled and know that it is soon to come. What a wonderful idea. How blessed these girls are. Joining from vB!ReplyDelete
Thank you so much! I remember, even at age 9, not liking what I saw when I looked in the mirror. Your daughter is lucky to have you to love her!Delete
Such an important topic to discuss with all teen girls. You're beautiful no matter what and magazines and television don't have to define beauty.ReplyDelete
Barbara, I so agree! I wish that magazines and TV depicted women and girls in a more realistic way...it would really help!Delete
I wish I had a forum like this when I was a teen! So powerful for girls to voice their thoughts and feelings so openly. WOW.ReplyDelete