Talk about a wake-up call.

Recently I was looking for quotes to feature in SHE magazine and came across this punch-in-the-gut comment from Gloria Steinem: “Every time any of us walks past a mirror and denigrates our own appearance, a girl is watching and getting her self-estimate from that.”

Gulp. How often have I done THAT?

Whether we realize it or not, every day girls are watching us to learn what it means to be a woman.

I cringe to think of how often I’ve complained about my appearance in front of others, unfairly blamed myself when things went wrong, said yes when I really wanted to say no, made self-deprecating jokes at my own expense, put others first no matter the personal cost to myself, and turned down opportunities because I didn’t want to look too ambitious. Even saying this, I know I’m being too hard on myself. After all, I learned this behaviour simply by observing the world around me and seeing how women are ‘supposed’ to behave. But now I know these rules aren’t in my best interest and that it’s up to me to set a different example for the next generation.

By paying more attention to the things I say, how I say them, and the choices I make, I can become a more empowering role model for the girls and young women in my life. And so can you.

At the Canadian Women’s Foundation, we just did a survey that proves girls desperately need better role models.

We discovered over 60% of Canadians believe girls choose celebrities for role models. Almost nobody thought girls looked up to women who are writers or scientists.

What’s so wrong with that?

  • If your role model is a celebrity, you will most likely learn your primary value comes from how you look, rather than your intelligence, kindness, or creativity. To reach their full potential, girls must have female role models who are respected for something other than looking sexy.
  • While most girls in Canada start out strong, as they approach adolescence, their self-esteem plummets. By the time girls reach grade 10, only 14% say they feel confident. 90% of girls in Canada say they feel pressure from the media to be thin. In one study, half of all the girls said they wished they were someone else.
  • Girls with low self-esteem tend to have trouble setting clear boundaries, are less likely to expect to be treated with respect, or to speak out if they experience abuse. Here’s five reasons why confidence is so important for girls.
  • If your role model is a distant stranger, you will never get personal feedback or advice on your real-life problems. Wouldn’t it be better if your role model was an older girl or adult woman you could actually talk to and hang out with? (That’s why the Canadian Women’s Foundation funds programs that provide mentors to girls in 56 communities across Canada.)
  • Most adults who are self-confident say their high self-esteem is rooted in having a positive mentor in their youth.

But you can help—and today’s the day to do it!

Just by taking a special “unselfie” and sharing it on social media, you can become part of our GivingTuesday Challenge.

GivingTuesday celebrates community giving and it’s the perfect time to help out the girls and young women in your life.

How does our challenge work?

  1. Think about one practical, simple change you can make that offers a more positive role model to the girls and young women in your life.
  2. Write the question: “To Be A Good Role Model, I Will Start…” plus your answer, on a piece of paper or a white board.
  3. Take a photo of yourself holding up your answer.
  4. Tag your photo with #UnSelfie #BelieveInAGirl and post it on Twitter or Facebook.
  5. If you don’t have a camera, write your answer in the comment section below and we’ll post it for you.

By committing to make one small change, you can send a powerful message to the girls and young women in your life, whether she is your daughter, sister, niece, friend, neighbour, or co-worker. Not only that, this change will empower you too.

Need some inspiration? My own #unselfie photo is shown above. 

Want to do more? You can also donate to our Girls’ Fund and help a girl get her own mentor. Because one of the best gifts you can give a girl this holiday season is confidence.

What will YOU start doing today?