CHRISTIAN LIVING | Tess Holgate
Monday 6 April 2015
Teenage girls are assaulted from every angle: the media shoves messages of perfectionism in their faces, the surrounding culture feeds them lie after lie that they’re not good enough, peer pressure tells them that people around them are expecting things that are beyond their capacity; in short, many teenage girls don’t know who they are.
Ruth Lewis-Jones is the founder and managing director of Esteem Designz, a program aimed at strengthening girls to know and be content and confident in their true identity and value.
“In a Christian setting their identity and value is in Christ. But,” says Ruth, “in non-Christian setting [girls] can still be equipped and empowered. They are equipped with key skills to endure and thrive through life.
“My true heart is that girls will know who they are in God. But I do want to reach those girls for whom we don’t yet have the right to speak God into their lives. I still want to impact their lives. It’s good to tell girls that they have worth and value.”
As a university student she saw the girls in her youth group struggling with perfectionism, peer pressure and media influences. She wanted to help girls break out of these damaging cycles.
A design student, she used her final year at university (2010) to pioneer the design template for Esteem Designz, and submitted it as her major work.
Over the next couple of years she wrote and rewrote the program, tested and retested it. She wanted it to be as easy as possible for anyone to run. She wanted it to be effective, lasting and memorable for the girls.
Ruth freely admits that she is not a child psychologist or a teacher, but she has experience working in schools as a chaplain. “When I created Esteem I worked alongside psychologists, counsellors, teachers, art therapists and social workers to make sure it really responsibly cared for the girls.
“Studies show that low self esteem is the primary origin of those [issues affecting teen girls] and all the other main issues that teens face,” says Ruth. “It is the one that underlines them all.”
“[Low self esteem] is so prevalent at their age because that’s when they’re really developing their view of the world and of themselves. The teenage years are when that’s really coming together.”
The program consists of five stages. “In each stage the girls are encouraged to write down things they’re struggling with or concerned about, and they can start to seek ways to overcome it,” says Ruth.
In each project there are discussion points for the group to mull over. Ruth says, “it’s not confronting because the main task is the activity, so often girls will open up really deeply to you.
“Through design projects they learn and create tools that they can continue to use throughout life. If we can walk into that stage and give them great foundations of who they are, then that can really change their outlook on life and their life trajectory.”