Silly hats and hairy legs.

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As part of our International Day of the Girl Campaign, we’ve invited many amazing women to share their experiences of girlhood with guest blogs. Positive role modelling is an important part of building and maintaining girls’ confidence in themselves.

You can take part in the campaign by taking a minute to share advice for girls today on our virtual wall.

But first, meet today’s guest blogger, Fleurie Forbes Martin, GFS committee member and storyteller, as adult Fleurie interviews her past, girl self.

Me: “Good morning! How are you today?”

Girl: “I’m okay, but I went to get something out of the freezer and I found my gold fish inside.

My gold fish died while I was away, so my parents got another one to replace it and put my goldfish in the freezer. But they forgot about it and I found it.”

Me: “Oh lord. I’m sorry to hear that – was it a good fish while it was alive?”

Girl: “It was a very good fish, I’m sad he had to go down the toilet.”

Me: “He’s in a better place now. Fishy heaven. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about school – do you enjoy school?”

Girl: “I like art class, because I’m quite good at making things and the time goes really quickly. I’m not very good at maths and I find it hard to concentrate because it’s not very interesting.”

Me: “Ah yes, I love making things too – I find that it helps me to quieten my busy brain. Are your friends arty too?”

Girl: “Yes, my best friend is really good at art too and when we go to each other’s houses after school we make things together, which is really fun.”

Me: “Is there anything you don’t like about school, apart from difficult subjects?”

Girl: “Some of the boys in my school are annoying sometimes. They say that we’re slower than they are when we’re racing at break time, even though we’re not. One boy picks on me because he says I have hairy legs.

My mum says I’m not allowed to shave them because I’m too young. It makes me feel embarrassed.

Even though my birthday is in the summer and I love when it’s sunny, I hate getting into my summer uniform because I can’t hide my legs.”

Me: “I’m sorry to hear that, but I have hairy legs too! So does everyone else when they get older!

Although some people choose not to be nice about the way we look, or make us feel bad about who we are, what they say doesn’t matter if we decide so.

Tell me, if you saw someone walking down the street wearing a really silly hat, would you walk up to them and tell them that they looked silly?”

Girl: “No, I wouldn’t do that.”

Me: “And why not?”

Girl: “I don’t want them to feel bad. They are wearing the hat because they like it.”

Me: “Okay, so why do you think other people, like the boy at school, do say horrible things?”

Girl: “Because girls are meant to look pretty and hairy legs aren’t pretty.”

Me: “Girls are not meant to look like anything. Every single person – girls included – is completely different. Otherwise we’d be made out of Lego.

The difference isn’t that some people like silly hats and some people don’t. The difference is some people choose to be kind and accept people for who they are and some people choose to be horrible.

In the moment people point out things they don’t like in others, they believe it will make them feel better about themselves – either because they’re showing off or because deep down, they’re worried that someone might be mean to them first.

So, they try to protect themselves by being the first person to point the finger at others.”

Girl: “Okay.”

Me: “What other people think about you is not for you to worry about. Because you will never be able to control it – good or bad.

You will meet thousands of people throughout your life and if you make what they have to say about you more important than what you have to say about yourself, you will feel sad when you don’t have to!

Everyone has three choices in life:
  1. Take what other people say about me as the truth and sometimes feel sad.
  2. Hide who I am so people don’t know the truth and always feel sad.
  3. Take what I say about me as the truth and let the rest go because who cares! This is the secret to being yourself and being happy.

You must give your own opinions more attention than other peoples. Treat yourself like you would the people you love, like your friends and family.

You wouldn’t be mean to someone else wearing a silly hat, so don’t listen to things that are said about you that you don’t like. Look after yourself and flush all the mean things down the toilet where they belong.”

Girl: “Ha ha okay I will. [pause] I hope my goldfish isn’t swimming in mean things.”

Interview conducted by Fleurie (aged 32) with Fleurie (aged 8).

I’m not a parent yet, but if my future daughter has experiences that are anything like the ones I did in the 90s, I may need to have a conversation similar to this one.

Body image and feeling a deep sense of shame is, horrifically, one of the most universal truths for women everywhere. For me, it only took one little boy to shape the way I viewed my own worthiness for the next 15 years or so.

A little boy who, I’m sure, is now a well-rounded human being with a family of his own. Maybe even a daughter.

School is difficult for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. But as a young girl facing a myriad of signs pointing to my ‘lacking’, the place I found solace was spending time with my friends in a safe space where I could create and build a sense of pride in who I was. I still love art and design today and channel this into tattoo design.

That’s why I adore the work of GFS. This organisation has provided safe spaces for girls across the country, to help them build their confidence and find friends away from the complexities of school life. And they have been doing it for 150 years.

They are empowering and nurturing the young girls who will become the next generation of leaders, athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs and parents.

And they need the support of anyone who knows what it feels like to be seen as ‘less than’ to ensure young girls don’t follow in our footsteps. Can you help?

Thank you to Fleurie for sharing your story of girlhood. We hope all women reading this will join in by sharing their stories and advice on our virtual wall

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