Pressures on Teenage Girls to Join the 'In Crowd"

Surely we can't all be expected to look like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. Girls approaching their teenage years are becoming more vulnerable to outside influences and obsessive about their looks.

'Mummy does this dress look pretty on me?' is the question I've heard many times from my own daughter and others.

Is this a special gene baby girls are born with or do we as mothers - reliving our own youth - encourage our girls to pamper themselves with hours of hair brushing, dressing-up and looking in the mirror?

Surely we can't all be expected to look like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.

Girls approaching their teenage years are becoming more vulnerable to outside influences and obsessive about their looks.

"Thinspiration" is very 'in' says eighteen year-old Leigh who suffered from an eating disorder in her early teens.

"Thin stick legs and bony bodies are what a lot of girls want," she told me.

The other healthier option she said is called "Fitspiration" - with "muscly" and toned bodies and a healthy diet being the essential criteria.

Excessive workouts and extreme dieting can be destructive on the Fitspiration regime too.

Obsession with body image is becoming an epidemic among some young girls.

It needs to be squashed.

Looking the part is what some think they have to do to be part of the "in crowd".

Bullying, verbal abuse and being left out can happen if they don't go along with what the "in crowd" dictate.

This had been the experience of a lovely seventeen-year-old coaching client who came to me lacking confidence and believing she would do badly in her exams.

"When I walked into the sixth form study room with my hair up, no make-up and wearing track suit and trainers some of the girls were laughing and talking about me", she said.

"I wasn't imagining it as they made loud comments like 'she looks like she just got out of bed' and 'shame about the bad hair day'."

The constant verbal abuse and pressures of having to look a certain way began to upset her and she came to me after she had caved in to them.

Her weight became significantly less through dieting and excessive exercise and she started to wear make-up to school, buy the latest 'in' clothes and let her hair down.

The "in crowd" girls wanted to be friends again and boys gave her more attention.

Studying became her second priority.

She felt unwell dieting and pushing her body to the limits in the gym.

It had become an obsession.

Following our coaching sessions she realised it was time to find her focus again and do what made her healthy, happy and successful.

We worked on her self-esteem and confidence and how beauty isn't about being stick thin and overdoing it in the gym.

We talked about what she wanted to achieve in her life.

Becoming a doctor had long been a dream and she wanted to surround herself with real friends who loved her for who she was - with or without make-up.

My client got the grades she needed to study as a doctor and is now in her first year at university.

Outside influences such as cruel "friends" at school, the media, internet, bill boards and advertisements can cause harm.

Whilst my client has overcome the 'blip' as she calls it - there are many teenagers going through it right now.

In a recent Girl Guiding report, 51% of girls surveyed between the ages fourteen to sixteen were unhappy with their appearance.

How can we as parents step into 2014 and help give confidence boosters to our youngsters?

I was pleased to read about positive action being taken in a progress report on the "Body Confidence Campaign" for the Government Equalities Office.

As our girls approach adolescence they can become more vulnerable and require more positive influences around them.

The head teacher at one of the grammar schools I spoke at wanted me to encourage his pupils to lead with confidence and focus on what they wanted to achieve by feeling good from the inside out.

Following my talk the girls said that by taking care of themselves physically, they realised it would also give them the energy and focus to achieve their dreams.

A bright, confident and intelligent thirteen-year-old who I will call "Jane" told me about the pressure and expense of having to have the right clothes from the right shops such as Urban Outfitters and American Apparel.

Looking good is without doubt a powerful tool for any girl.

However, if they don't feel confident and believe in themselves how are they going to radiate that on the outside?

They may be wearing the right clothes, but they can't all look like supermodels or Disney princesses. Learning what is important for their health, happiness and success can give them the confidence boost and self-belief they need in life without feeling the pressure to become one of the 'in' crowd.

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