If you try to tell a seven-year-old girl she can’t do something, she’s likely to put up a pretty fierce protest, then do it anyway.
But by 21, many young women have lost the confidence to follow their dreams.
A new survey from Girlguiding has found that girls’ confidence drops from the age of seven and plummets after they’ve been through secondary school.
While 63% of seven to 10-year-old girls say they “feel confident in themselves”, just 31% of 17-21 year olds agree with the statement.
What’s more, we’re likely to feel less powerful as we get older. While 90% of girls aged nine or 10 think both genders have equal chances of succeeding in their chosen job, just 35% of women aged 17 to 21 feel the same.
With this is mind, the women of The Huffington Post UK have written open letters to our seven-year-old selves to show them (and little girls everywhere) that they can be anything they want to be.
Dear 7-Year-Old Me.....
“Things are going to be a bit tough for a while but stick it out - you have so many wonderful times coming. Be excited for the future! When people say nasty things, remember it’s probably because they are unhappy themselves. You’re going to learn to love your body just as it is (but you’re probably not going to get much taller - sorry about that).”
“At the moment, you want to be an astronomer and a writer. Whatever you decide, know you can be both. You feel like your body can do anything, and it can. You will carve up your body into parts and spend years obsessing over them - your small boobs, the circles under your eyes, your hair that will never be poker straight. None of this stuff matters. No one else notices it but you, and anyone who does is not worth being friends with, or they are projecting things they feel bad about themselves. Babe, you’re a meteor. Shine bright, shine as fiercely as the sun, don’t let anyone box you in, and if they try, if they even dare, just burn that box right down.”
“Stay fearless. Keep pushing yourself to do new things, even if there are people or things holding you back. Stop worrying so much about what certain people think of you - their opinion doesn’t matter.”
“Do what makes you happy, not what makes you cool. Pretty soon, you’ll start worrying about your body. You will never have big boobs, but one day you won’t care. You’ll be tempted to drink WKDs in the park instead of doing your homework. Don’t bother, the ‘popular’ girls in school will end up with shit jobs. Don’t get stressed about boys, most are over-rated. Never buy Cosmopolitan magazine. Don’t panic, you’re going to be okay.”
“Don’t stop doing sport because you think that flirting with people on MSN messenger is the key to greater life happiness (it really isn’t) and ignore your classmates who will tell you to shave your (prepubescent hairless) legs. Oh to be a woman.”
“Don’t feel ashamed of excelling in school. Your peers might not think it’s ‘cool’ but at the end of the day being a nerd is going to land you the job of your dreams one day. Also don’t get hung up on the fact you haven’t had a growth spurt yet. You’ll always be a squirt and it’ll become one of the many things that makes you, well... You!”
“Don’t be afraid to do your own thing. Sometimes, the pressure to run with the crowd can be overwhelming. While you may be tempted to give in for the temporary gain, it never pays off in the long run. Going your own way can be a daunting prospect especially when the price is loneliness. But this is a small price to pay for the strength of character it builds ― something you’ll have for the rest of your life.”
What advice would you give to your younger self? Let us know in the comments below.