When Carolyn McMahon’s then nine-year-old daughter came to her and expressed dissatisfaction with her appearance, she had no idea how to respond, so she spent two years learning as much as she could about the challenges facing today’s girls. The end result was her fantastic book Just Be You, Girl: A Guide to Self-Esteem for all Young Girls Not Living on a Deserted Island.
Carolyn stopped by The Social to chat about the inspiration behind her book, why growing up today really is harder, and what to say – and not say – to young girls who dislike themselves. Watch the clip above for the inspiring chat.
We also caught up with Carolyn backstage for some web-exclusive questions.
Q. Even before you wrote this book, you were privvy to a lot of the struggles young girls go through, both as a mother and having worked in media. Over the course of your research, was there anything that shocked you?
Carolyn McMahon: I think what shocked me most is how young girls are now when they start to struggle with issues of self-esteem. When I was young, it was something we might have started to deal with in high school. But now girls as young as five years old have noted having issues.
Q. When is the right age to start these conversations about topics like self-image?
CM: I think there’s never a time that’s too early. From the time kids are starting to talk, you start teaching them to be strong and independent; how to make their own choices; to be proud of who they are. I think the way you may approach it may be different, depending on how old they are – but start immediately, I would say.
Q. Are there any social media accounts you like to follow or that you would recommend for young people, or even parents of kids dealing with challenges like the ones you’ve written about?
I follow a lot more news organizations and child welfare groups. I go all over the web to pick up any of the daily news that’s going on, or to research a specific topic. I look at whatever is trending. The thing about it is, a lot of the information on these issues breaks on social media first and not necessarily in medical journals. Another one of my biggest resources is my daughter. I ask her, ‘What’s going on out there in the world of social media’? ‘What apps are you on’? Because kids intuitively pick things up quicker than [a parent is] going to find it online.
Q. Let’s talk about the writing process. Where do you like to write – and when.
For this book, I wrote during the day – that’s when I’m most productive because the kids are at school. But l worked on the design layout in the evening, when the kids were actually at home because I wanted their [input on what worked] for the age group I was writing for.
Q. Is there anyone in the spotlight whose approach to self-image you admire?
One of the stars I love is P!nk [who fought back against body-shamers on Twitter in April] – and she did it with respect, but she did it head on. I respect stars like that, and I think we’re actually seeing more and more of them speaking out.
To purchase your copy of Carolyn’s book, head to JustBeYouGirl.com