Carolyn McMahon’s guide tackles everything from media and technology to peer groups and how each can affect perception
Oakville mom Carolyn McMahon wants young girls to become more aware of the importance of having positive self-esteem. That’s why she’s written and released a new book, titled Just Be You, Girl: A Guide to Self-Esteem for All Young Girls Not Living on a Deserted Island.
The soft cover, 190-page guide for girls aged 10-13 years was born out of a desire to help those having a “hard time seeing their own beauty and worth at that age,” according to McMahon, who says she was also inspired by her daughter Keeley to put something together on paper.
“I wrote this book for young girls because I think, sometimes, feelings at this age can become overwhelming, especially as it can be hard to understand exactly where they are coming from,” she told the Oakville Beaver. “And I think a lot of times, girls are told not to worry when they are struggling and it is just puberty or a phase.”
But McMahon says that’s not the case.
“In fact, girls today face an overwhelming amount of pressure, unheard of even just a generation ago,” she explained. “Being a young girl today is hard. Yes, past generations have had to deal with body image issues, jealousies, insecurities and raging hormones, but we never had to deal with the constant, over-the-top bombardment of media images glamourizing an unattainable perfection aimed at an even younger audience.”
According to the Oakville resident of 21 years, young girls have a harder time coping with the world of social media, where they can be left open to mass judgements 24-7, and, as a result, have to be “on” all the time.
“Girls today are not only exposed to many more influences, but also at a younger and younger age. Add to this all the classic issues of growing up and you can see how seven in 10 girls may believe they are just not good enough,” McMahon said, referencing the June 2008 Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund.
According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, youth suicide rates are rising amongst Canadian girls, while the Public Health Agency of Canada states nearly one in every three girls, in Grades 6-8, often wish they were someone else.
McMahon says her book is directed at girls aged 10-13 because that age group is often overlooked when it comes to the topic of self-esteem and, it’s, in fact, the self-perceptions formed during those years that can end up lasting a lifetime.
Some practical advice
Just Be You, Girl aims to give young girls practical advice on how to deal with the world around them, while “discovering the strength and beauty within themselves,” noted McMahon. The book tackles everything from media and technology to peer groups and how interacting with each can affect young girls’ perceptions of themselves. While it is geared towards a younger generation, McMahon says her book is meant to be read with any girl in a person’s life and help foster conversation.
“It’s my hope that by reading this book, girls will begin to understand the influences that can shape their self-perception and affect their self-esteem,” she said. “Just Be You, Girl wants girls, even at this younger age, to be more aware, ask more questions, and most importantly, understand that, even with all the outside noise, they have the power to define themselves and be confident in themselves just the way they are. Plus, it’s a really fun and interesting read.”
Parent-daughter book clubs have begun to use McMahon’s material — she also says she’s been contacted by a local school that will be holding a Just Be You, Girl book club for their female students. As a result, she has developed book club materials — available for download for free on the book’s website — that can be used as informal chats or part of a structured program.
“… Honestly, one of the best ways we can support our girls is by talking with them,” said McMahon.