One of the greatest challenges children face is the struggle to find their own voice, to build and maintain their self confidence, to be resilient in the face of criticism – especially when it comes to issues of self image.
Now we have one more tool to give them; a local initiative focused on improving the way young people view themselves. The Self Esteem Project was created by local photographer Johanna Flanagan.
“I was scrolling through posts in one of my many, many mommy groups on Facebook and I came across a photo of the most beautiful little girl,” explains Johanna. “When I stopped to read the post I was shocked to find that her mom was asking for advice on dealing with her daughter’s self esteem issues. It broke my heart that this has become such an issue for girls so young. And as a mom of a baby girl, it terrified me for what’s to come.”
Johanna reached out to the mom and offered to do a photoshoot with her daughter, as a way to try to build her confidence. Things went so well, Johanna couldn’t just leave it there. She found a make-up artist and a hairdresser who shared her passion and The Self Esteem Project was born.
Each month, a young girl (between the ages of six and 16; boys are welcome, too) will be chosen for a mini-photoshoot, complete with professional hair and makeup services. Participants choose their own clothes, their own poses, their hairstyles, even their makeup (if allowed; parents get a little input on that one). Johanna and her team believe that this is the first step in building confidence and reinforces the idea that our own definition of beauty is what matters, not others’ opinions.
“I think that that part of the experience, giving her a voice in how she sees herself, is as helpful or even more helpful, than the pictures that she ends up with,” says Johanna. “I think it’s hard to find a balance between having a positive self image and placing too much importance on outer beauty. The purpose of the girls choosing their own wardrobe, style of shoot, and poses is to put the emphasis on what their idea of beauty is rather than accepting what society tells them is beautiful. Every shoot will be tailored to that particular girl’s personality and style. Because looks are ever-changing and what matters is the person you are. I’m hoping these photos will be a reminder of who these girls are when they feel like they are being pressured to be someone else.”
The first official Self Esteem Project participant was Anna. Her mother, Elizabeth, nominated her, describing Anna as a precocious and funny 10-year-old girl who loves DIY, musical theatre (she was just in Seussical the Musical), Kawaii, animals, and her younger siblings.
“Anna has such a big personality for her age,” says Johanna. “It was so fun to give her the opportunity to call the shots and see her shine.”
“This photoshoot gave me an incredible opportunity to hang out with Anna when she was feeling her best,” says Elizabeth. “Her eyes were brighter and her smile a bit wider knowing that she was special enough to have had an event take place based around her. I think it’s important for every child to feel that, to have the emphasis placed on them – and solely them – from time to time.”
Want to nominate someone for the Self Esteem Project? Send a note through the project’s Facebook page. Include the child’s name, age, a bit about their interests, and why you are nominating them. (Information will only be shared publicly if approved by the nominee.) Candidates must be between the ages of six and 16. One person will be chosen each month. Nominations will not be saved, so if you aren’t chosen, please apply again. Please note: only parents or guardians may nominate a candidate.
Pickle Planet Moncton will feature The Self Esteem Project participants each month; be sure to like the project page and follow along here for updates!
“We can do everything in our power to give our girls a solid foundation and healthy body image, but as soon as they get out into the world, everything and everyone around them will try to shatter it. I felt like I had to help in some small way.” ~Johanna, The Self Esteem Project