There’s a new charity dedicated to helping young girls. It’s called the “Believe in Yourself Project,” and it’s focused on helping young girls feel more comfortable in their own skin. The founder of the charity, Sam Sisakhti, is also the founder of UsTrendy, a large online retailer for young women and juniors.
That initial venture is where Sisakhti got the idea for Believe in Yourself. While working in the industry, he became acutely aware of just how much young girls care about fashion, and what it costs. This trend usually sets in around the time puberty hits. Puberty is a significant change in almost everything, and most parents will tell you their kids get a little off. That might be annoying, but it’s actually for a really good reason.
Puberty creates massive changes
This is the time where kids are supposed to learn to draw support from their peer group instead of depending only on their family. The whole point is to create lifelong friendships and establish social behaviors that can help you deal with stress. One of the ways we do that is by dressing accordingly and attending milestones, like high school dances.
For girls who either can’t attend or can’t dress as expected, it can cause issues. Often the first impact is a young lady’s self-esteem. In turn, this makes them more vulnerable to the effects of bullying and the subtle effects of media body shaming. A magazine might tell you to love yourself, but it’s immediately followed by images of women in perfect shape and the benefits of fasting.
The result of that constant bombardment of how to look and what’s trendy leads many teens to associate their clothes with body image. Then their peers, who they’re programmed to value more at this age, jump in and reinforce that idea. If you don’t wear the right clothes in middle and high school, someone will notice, and someone will say something.
The rise of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a relatively new thing, and unfortunately, it’s given kids a new way to attack each other. The things you would never say to someone’s face can be said easily from behind the safety of a keyboard. Being unable to afford the latest fashion trends leaves girls socially isolated and at risk for bullying. Even if they have a great support system and don’t have bullies, simply not being able to fit in can lead to them feeling ashamed of themselves.
How young girls handle the criticism is also important. As adults, we can learn to take it and deal with it constructively, but that takes practice. As adolescents, people are much more likely to assume their peer group is right and the problem lies with themselves.
Seeing this effect is what encouraged Sisakhti to launch the Believe in Yourself Project. The foundation provides needy girls with dresses for upcoming dances, while at the same time promoting a positive body image with mentors and speakers.
According to Sisakhti, the foundation’s primary goal is to encourage women and young girls to feel better about themselves. He feels if he can empower them and help give them better self-esteem, the women may be able to take on more active roles within their schools and communities.
Recently, Believe in Yourself has given formal dresses to underprivileged high school girls and college students across the country, including Cape Cod, Mass. There they have given away dress samples, so girls who might not have gone to these dances were able to attend. Plus, because the dresses are samples, they tend to be different from what the other girls are wearing. No one ends up with the same dress as someone else!
The Believe in Yourself Project is part of a broader initiative and is currently in talks with various influential women who at one time or currently have struggled with body image, encouraging them to serve as speakers and mentors to the different girls within the program.
“We hope to dispel the notion that you need to be a size 0 in order to be beautiful,” says Sisakhti.
The entire premise behind the Believe in Yourself Project is to make people feel comfortable. They want to help eliminate the physical insecurities all teens have and alleviate some of the financial stress so many families endure. They want to minimize the effects of a daily dose of the media telling you what you should look like and who you should buy from.
The Believe in Yourself Project is also working with mentoring programs nationwide. They want to be able to do more than only give young women dresses. They want to have a real, lasting impact on their lives. And that starts by working directly with them.
Because they’ve made their mark as an online company, they intend to continue this trend. Weekly online seminars with speeches and Q&A sessions by mentors will be available to all girls across the country. They will work with already established mentorship programs to get some influential women speakers who can talk about body positivity and bullying.
It’s not possible to eliminate bullying behavior, but it is possible to give girls and young women the tools to deal with it. Teaching them how to manage themselves and how to not become part of the problem is a big step in the right direction.