By Takiya La’Shaune Smith
“… Sometimes when a person goes through something, it means they need to be that voice that can help another, even if it is only one person. A lot of people aren’t as strong as you may be and they need to hear your voice and know that they will be okay.”
Those were the exact words of my daughter’s 15-year-old friend, Rebecca. Becca, as I affectionately call her, had come along for a weekend trip and as we drove along during the early morning hours on I-95 South, she openly discussed her own personal obstacles regarding low self-esteem, coping with peer pressure and dealing with acceptance, not only of self but by others. I listened intently as Becca slowly, but with a steady momentum, entrusted me with some of her heart’s secrets, and I responded carefully and with the same care and compassion that I would with my own daughter.
The way I saw it — and the way I will always feel about it — was just that. Becca was no different to me than if she was my own daughter. Regardless of her race, regardless of her background, regardless of her age, regardless of her family’s tax bracket, regardless of her and my daughter’s typical on-again, off-again teenage friendship, regardless of the fact that she wasn’t my biological daughter — the fact of the matter is that she is a daughter. A young lady growing up in a world focused on image, beauty, body and boys. So much so that a positive influence, or lack thereof, could be enough to make or break, derail or set the course of her lifetime.
Like so many of our girls, typically middle and high school age, yet shockingly spiraling its way to elementary, low self-esteem and a lack of positive self-image has fast become the norm. Statistics, coupled with the media’s exploitation of scantily clad pop stars, foul mouthed rock stars, overzealous movie stars and brawling, pregnant reality stars, is what we have allowed to set the pace, be a standard and make an example for most of our girls. Turning a cheek and turning up our nose to look down on it should not be what guides our judgment; yet opening our arms and offering our hearts should be what we allow to lead us.
As Becca candidly opened up to me, I in turn offered my personal experiences of mistakes made and lessons learned. What I soon and quickly came to realize and see was a young lady gaining hope right before me. Her view of self-image began to shift and her attitude towards others’ acceptance of her expanded. She began to realize that she was more than “just a girl” but that she was a girl with a purpose, a young lady with a voice. Like my own daughter, she was comforted, she was consoled and she realized that she was given a choice. A choice to be who she wanted to be.
In the next coming weeks, I will spotlight several teen related articles that discuss what our young girls are facing in hopes that we as a community can open our ears to hear their voices and open our hearts to make a change.
In addition, I will be launching “For My Girls,” a unique mentorship program based upon etiquette and positive self-image for all young ladies in fifth through twelfth grades. “For My Girls” was instated by my own life, inspired by my own daughter and implemented for my own Becca. Webster’s dictionary states that the definition of “my” means of or relating to “me” or “myself.” When put in perspective, when it comes to me or myself, I want nothing but the best and I will stop at nothing until I obtain the best. Let’s learn to look at the rest as “me” or “myself.”
If you are a mother or a daughter of any age, an educator, a mentor or even a father and would like more information regarding “For My Girls” whether it be participation or education, please feel free to contact me and together let’s make an impact. Our girls deserve it and are certainly worth it.
Takiya La’Shaune Smith, licensed cosmetologist, mentor and owner of Beautique Lash & Brow, is an author and beauty columnist promoting inner and outer beauty, self-esteem, preservation and awareness. Follow her blog at www.blb-boutiques.com, find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TakiyaLSmith, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her at (843) 263-0426.