In a world bursting with photoshopped images of Western ideals of beauty, constant objectification and harassment towards women's bodies, and gaping inequalities between women and men, it's understandable to feel angry and saddened that these aspects have been incorporated and normalized in our society. One doesn't even have to enter the realm of statistics to know the obvious truth of how damaging it is to be living in such a society -- simply looking around at everyday occurrences is enough. Consider the 10-year old girl complaining about her weight, or the 10-year old boy who, when waiting in the supermarket line, can learn how to objectify the female body simply by scanning the readily available magazine covers of scantily clad women. How do you raise a child in this environment? How do you grow and maintain confidence when every media outlet is contradicting you? How do you carry that confidence with you, throughout your life? The answer is in itself a challenge: To love yourself, unabashedly. To know yourself, to feel comfortable with who you are, to know your faults and your strengths, and to not apologize for them, to surround yourself with positivity, and to be patient and kind with yourself and, by extension, with the world around you.
Easier said than done, of course. It must be noted that the process of confidence and self-love is exactly that: a process. It doesn't occur overnight. Rather, consider every day an opportunity to practice reminding yourself who, exactly, you are. Love yourself unconditionally: On days where nothing is going right and on days where you feel that everything is as it should be. By practicing this skill, it becomes easier -- well, bearable at the very least -- to contemplate and reflect on the various inequalities that girls and women face. Instead of feeling ashamed or guilty about yourself when faced with a magazine cover that enforces a warped body image, self-love and confidence make it possible to view such a cover as instead an opportunity to critique the wider social implication. The focus becomes less on insecurities of the self and instead on identifying faults in a society that has normalized many unjust behaviors against girls and women. The next step after identifying these faults is figuring out how best to fight against them, to contradict and berate their messages for all to hear.
The simple act of observing and pointing out the various inequalities and double standards against girls and women -- be it a demeaning stereotype or a discriminating form of legislation -- can result in positive discussions that question what it means to be a woman today. By observing and discussing the injustices around us, it becomes possible to resist and challenge negative stereotypes and attitudes towards women. Simply by calling out an injustice and bringing attention to it is a form of resistance. To be an agent of meaningful change requires drawing on capabilities from within. It is here that confidence and strength can be found and, when shared with others, spiral and grow.