I teach at a school on a Monday where self-esteem is pretty thin on the ground. I see this a fair bit, especially with young girls. When girls hit about ten or eleven, it seems that when the hormones kick-in, self-esteem recedes like a wave leaving the shore. They start to criticise everything and everyone around them – but most damagingly, themselves.
I get so angry when I hear them comparing themselves to air-brushed pictures in magazines, or videos of pop stars. And at no point do they talk about air-brushing, or the hours it takes in hair and make-up before any cameras roll. They just try and work out how they can make themselves look like that, by not eating, or madly exercising. And all this in primary school.
And with the striving to be thin comes the inevitable comments about others or themselves. “She’s fat. She’s ugly. I’m fat. I’m crap. I can’t do anything. I’m no good.” The list goes on and on. I saw this with girls I went to uni with. I saw this with girls younger than me in high school. And now, heart-breakingly, I see it in primary-aged kids.
So, back to me on Monday. I have a choir of twelve girls. They sing really well for a just-started choir, looked after by a ‘cellist-who-isn’t-really-a-choir-director. They are working on two songs for their upcoming ANZAC assembly. And it has dawned on them that they sound really good. That they can ‘do’ something really well. That they are a group that is doing something different, that’s not been done at the school, and that they are sounding beautiful. And last Monday I watched these twelve girls grow in front of my eyes.
It was like watching a wilted plant get water and Seasol, and straighten and blossom on time-lapse photography. It was nothing short of magic.
At some point, everyone needs someone to say ‘Hey! You do this really well! I like what you do!’. And that was me, to those little people. It was an excellent moment. All this through the power of singing.
As you finish reading this (if anyone does), now I want you to do something. Push back your hair, sit up a little bit straighter, and sing. Sing something. Anything. A children’s song. A hymn. Something your gram used to sing to you. Even an advert jingle, if nothing else comes to mind.
I guarantee you’ll feel better.
Go on, try it. For my girls.