Today, the Irish examiner released a study of 2,5oo teenagers which found that two thirds of 13-19 year olds say that their mental health state is ‘poor, very poor or average.’ We talk to girls all the time about the pressure they feel to be smart, beautiful and perfect. Caitlin Moran, the amazing author of “How to be a Woman” and “How to Build a Girl” sees this too, and this week, at a reading of her new book, she shared her message for girls, and it is really beautiful. Read the full piece here, or watch her tell it herself in the video below.
You can tell instantly when they step towards you. The posture, the sleeves over their hands, there is something in their eyes. These are the girls who are struggling right now. Some of them are hard and tense with overeating, others are anorexic and feel like starving baby birds when you hug them. They’re like a handful of brittle bamboo canes. They are arms furious with criss cross razor lines, studs in the ear and the nose and the tongue where they have tried to reclaim their bodies from something or someone with the snap of a piercing gun.
Sometimes their parents are there, standing in the background nervous; their faces naturally projecting “she likes you, please make her feel better now, please don’t break her. And what can I say to these girls; the girls who are having that bad year when you cannot remember why you were happy when you were 12 and you cannot imagine being happy at 21. What can you say to these girls in 1 minute or 2 minutes or three.
I can say so many things to you.
First of all panic and anxiety will lie to you, they are gonzo-maligned commentators on the events of your life. Their counsel is wrong. You are as high wired and badly advised by adrenaline as you would be by cocaine. Panic and anxiety are mad drugged fools. You must not listen to their grinding-toothed sweaty bullsh**.
Here is a promise and a fact. You will never in your life ever have to deal with anything for more than the next minute. However much it feels like you’re approaching an event, an exam, a conversation, a decision, a kiss, where if you screw up the entire future will just burn to hell in front of you and you will end, you are not.
That will never happen. That is not what happens.
The minutes always come one at a time, inside hours that come one at a time, inside days that come one at a time.All strung orderly like pearls on a necklace, suspended in a graceful line. You will never have to deal with more than the next 60 seconds. Do the calm, right thing that needs to be done in that minute, the work, or the breathing, or the smile. You can do that for one minute, and if you can do it for one minute, you can do it for the next.
Pretend that you are your own baby.
You would never cut that baby, or starve it, or overfeed it till it cried in pain. You would never tell that baby that it was worthless. Sometimes girls need to be mothers to themselves, your body wants to live, that’s all and everything it was born to do. So let it do that in the safety that you provide it. Protect it, that’s your biggest job, to protect your skin and your heart.
Buy flowers, or if you are poor, steal them from someone’s garden. Because the world owes you that much. Blossom, and put them at the end of your bed. When you wake, look at them and tell yourself that you are the kind of person that wakes up and sees flowers. That will stop your first thought from being “I fear today, today is the day I cannot survive any more,” which is I know, what you would otherwise think. Thinking about blossom before you think about terror is what girls must do on the bad years, and the most important thing is to know that you were not born like this.
You were not born scared and self-loathing and overwhelmed.
Things have been done, which means things can be undone.
And that’s hard work, but you are not scared of hard work. Compared with everything else you have to deal with, because what you must do right now and for the rest of your life, is learn how to build a girl.