“What is a teacher? I’ll tell you: it isn’t someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello
By Samantha McKenzie
I work on a college campus and come in contact with thousands of young women on a daily basis. They come from all walks of life and their fates cross paths because they have one common interest: They are here to earn a college degree.
Whether their parents forced them to attend school or they dreamt about it since they were young, they show up at our doorsteps, in our dorms and in our classrooms with an eagerness I admire. But behind those smiles and their artificial demonstrations of confidence, I see a need, a silent plea that innocently whispers, please help me.
A young lady stopped by my office recently. She talked about the challenges of maintaining a respectable GPA, the boyfriend who broke up with her on Snapchat and the constant burden to always look pretty. She admitted she never leaves her room without her eyelashes. She became so popular for wearing these dramatic lashes, she began selling them to her friends.
I noticed two distinct things immediately. 1) She was an entrepreneur and 2) she suffered with low self-esteem. I decided that in order to help her, to really reach her, I had to commit myself. We talked about young men, entertainment and advertisement and about good parents, bad parents and those missing. We spoke intensely about the damaging effects of not loving yourself and what it takes to grow into the beautiful, purposeful woman she was supposed to be. We laughed. We cried. She left me no room to deny her and on that day, I signed up to become a mentor.
The statistics of what is happening to our young women are devastating. They are exposed to inordinate amounts of stress, discrimination, sexism, and they quickly adapt traits of low self-esteem and depression. They are bombarded with advertisement that tells them they should look more beautiful, stay even younger or buy into messages that say they are too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny and worst of all, that they should give more than they will ever get in return. They inhale society’s contradictions that they should be domestic goddesses and strong and independent and in doing so, they will live happily every after.
I challenge all women to become mentors. Our young girls and women are in dire need of help. We will have to put aside our very own criticisms of ourselves and remember that our lives have value and that our experiences can help others. We will have to bring both our confidence and our humility fiercely to the forefront. We will have to confess our failures and our successes and explain how both of those experiences have made us the incredible women we are today. We will have to be uniquely us and deliberately authentic. Our girls are in search of our help.
So don’t wait. Just begin. Find a younger woman in the workplace, a teenager in the neighborhood or a young girl at church – and become committed to helping her along the way.
Our girls are in search of us.