“I don’t Like Emily. I hate her bangs, and I seriously hate her eyeshadow.”
“Yeah, and her dad totally looks like a drug dealer.”
“When I’m older, if I am not a dentist, I want to be a stripper.”
“Hey, want to know what Mary told me? I promised her I wouldn’t say but, Jessica started doing heroin last week.”
“Oh my god, those nerdy kids are so annoying, and I can’t stand how loud they are.”
These are just a few of the comments I jotted down as I overheard the conversation happening behind me at a coffee shop I was visiting. The place was empty aside from myself and the four girls giggling on the couch behind me. As I write this, half of me wants to be able to defend them and say that they were just being funny and talking the way that “every” young girl does, but at the same time, I think that is exactly the problem here. Something tells me that the way these girls were interacting is how they always interact. Crass, careless, and unkind. Unfortunately, this is just an ordinary high school conversation, and as I listened, I became more discouraged They talked about how they are too young to think about college, but how the only thing to do in Colorado is drugs. They discussed the girls in their class and made sure to categorize who was nerdy, who was ugly and who was “worthy” enough to be in their friend group. I looked at these girls and saw a reflection of what would inevitably turn into 50-year-old women sitting around a table gossiping about their friends, about their husbands, and being just as lonely and insecure inside as they were on that day in that coffee shop so many years ago.
If you are a teenage girl, be sure not to get me wrong, I absolutely love young women, you are the reason I started Girl Above. I love your ideas, I love your energy, and I love the way you want to change the culture. You are my people! But because I love you, I have a desire to see your generation of women grow up to be strong, confident and kind. What I find is that every teenage girl desires to be kind in some capacity. You wish to be part of a movement or to make an impact or to make people’s lives better. You want to be culture developers, and you want to be a part of something that matters.
There is just one problem. It is impossible to be strong, confident and kind when everything you think and say is insecure and mean. How do you expect to be the “light of the world” or to make any form of positive impact when the only thing coming out of your mouth reeks of destruction, darkness, and flat out garbage? How do you expect to work toward shifting culture in a positive direction if you lack the foundational elements of kindness? Why should anyone trust you with their secrets if you are going to slander them all across the school and then laugh about how you hate a person because you hate their bangs?
You see, most of the time being genuinely kind and having great character and integrity means having enough wisdom to stand up for the least popular kid and being a voice for the lonely. It means having the ability to lead by example and speaking words of encouragement and life, even when those around you have no desire to think or act this way. Sometimes having good character means doing the right thing even if it means doing it alone. Not only is this an example of your “character” but it also shows solid wisdom and integrity.
I look around, and I see a generation of really insecure girls that understand what it means to feel unworthy, self-conscious and the pressure for life “behind the scenes” to fit the image you have created on Instagram. You ladies understand what I say when I talk about trying to overcome shame, and you are passionate about the idea of building confidence within yourselves. I want to challenge you to walk the walk. If you care about building confidence, stop tearing everyone down. If you care about kindness, be kind. If you wish your friend group would change, start catalyzing change. If you care about leadership, be a leader. Do not underestimate the power of your actions, thoughts, and words right NOW. You are never too young to practice the self-control required for being consistently kind. You are never too young to seek sobriety, and you are never too young to pray for wisdom to guide your heart and your actions. The truth is that you are going to impact lives whether you like it or not, but you will have to decide if you are affecting lives in a way that leads them toward the light, or that leads toward darkness. But don’t be fooled, the character you consistently practice now will be the character that shows up later. We are always practicing and growing towards who we are becoming, so think wisely about how you choose to speak, think, and act.
Written By: Krista Van Allen