Monday, March 20, 2017

Compliments to give girls that have nothing to do with their physical appearance

This post has been on my heart ever since I finished reading the shocking book, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. This is one of those books that is extremely difficult to read because of its graphic nature, but the content is too important to put down. 

As a high school teacher, I find myself wanting to stay ensconced in naivety where I can pretend that I don't know what occurs in my students' personal lives. I can view them as the innocent, sweet, and full of promise students that they are while they are sitting in the shelter of my classroom.

Nancy Sales, however, does the opposite--by painstakingly interviewing and analyzing teenage girls from Los Angles to Kentucky, she pries deep into the intimate and disturbing secret lives of modern-day American girls. The entire time I read this book, I had an overwhelming sense of sadness for the precious girls that I teach every day. I can remember feeling the pressure to look pretty in school, but for today's girls, this pressure has seeped into every hour of their day because of the constant influence of social media. 

Sales reports, "'Beautiful, 'gorgeous,' 'sexy,' 'hot' are conventional responses to selfies in the culture of social media, responses which many girls seek as they spend minutes or hours of their day preparing themselves to be photographed." 

If you happen to look at a teenager's profile, this fact above is glaringly obvious. When girls post pictures, these are the comments they are getting. When they don't post pictures, they are making these comments on their friends' photos. When they are snooping around celebrity accounts, they are seeing thousands of these comments. It's constant. They can't escape it. Moreover, this pressure of looking pretty and thinking about pretty people may also be detrimental to their education, "Apparently, thinking about being hot makes it hard to think: 'Chronic attention to physical appearance leaves fewer cognitive resources available for other mental and physical activities,' said the APA report" (qtd. in Sales). 

All of this left me wanting to take action. While this issue seems insurmountable, I didn't want to add to it. When my female students are seeing picture after picture and comment after comment that reinforces the idea that their self-worth is beauty, I want to be sure that I'm not adding to this pressure. When I reflected on the compliments I pay my female students, I realized that my go-to's are always: "You look pretty today" or "I love how you did your hair" or other things that focus only their physical appearance. 

I know that everyone likes to hear these compliments from time to time when they've put forth an effort to look nice, but there are so many other deserving words of praise that I can give my girls. I have some seriously amazing young women in my classroom who have such a range of talent, and it's time that I remember to focus on those qualities the next time I want to give them a compliment. 

You can download a free printable I made for myself if you too would like some compliment inspiration and reminders for girls. 

Lastly, I want to jump start my compliment train by bragging on a couple of ladies who are doing some epic work when it comes to building up young girls. 

1. Compliment - The tagline for this shop is "We Rise by Lifting Others," and I absolutely love their mission.  This business started as an AVID fundraiser by an English teacher working hard to empower her students.  Her business grew from there and now she donates five percent of every sale to provide deserving smart girls with scholarships. The founder also mentors young female business owners which is a mission that I can fully stand behind (and hope to do myself one day!). 

In addition to all this, the products themselves promote appreciation of the amazing women in our lives. My favorite piece from their product line is this simple gratitude necklace. They have a batch of compliments to choose from, or you can write your own. I think these would be perfect graduation gifts, teacher gifts, and mentor gifts. 

2. TeachMsTanner - This woman right here is truly an inspiration. The workshops she has for girls at her school are brave and so very important. I could go on and on about the work this teacher does, but it's impossible to paint an accurate picture. Just go follow her, and you will see what I'm talking about. 

3. Teach Like A Girl - This powerful lady right here is causing a stir in a very good way. She's getting her Ph.D. so she can educate you and inspire you at the same time. 

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