For almost two years now I have been helping at my local Girl Guide unit.
During these two years I have been working towards the leadership qualification (LQ). It’s been such a challenging but rewarding process that I would encourage all women to consider.
I have learned so much during my time there and I know the girls will only teach me more and more.
Tonight was our first night back after the Christmas holidays.
Whilst I am a leader, I have a different relationship with the guides. The age gap between myself and the other leaders is rather large. All are mothers and one is now a granny too. So 18-year-old me has a lot more in common with the 11- 14-year-old girls than the other leaders.
For this reason I have taken on the role of the big sister.
Yes, I am still a leader and I can act like one when needed, but for the majority of the time I am the big sister of the unit.
What my naivety failed to recognises that this makes me a role model.
Me, a role model.
Having young girls look up to me was a responsiblity I underestimated.
Soon I found that my behaviors were copied, my attitude matched and my actions shadowed. I did not expect it at all.
Realising this I decided that I’d avoid wearing makeup to Guides as much as possible. I’d had conversations with the other leaders in the past, and we’d all agreed that we’d create a safe enviroment where the girls didn’t feel like they had to wear makeup. I decided that my part in this was to be brave going with a naked face.
To let them see that it was ok to be seen with brake outs and all. That it was ok to be comfortable being natural.
This can prove to be difficult like today. Without makeup I am often mistaken as a guide by parents, especially parent of girls who are joining us for the fist time. So for the first few evenings of the terms, I’ll wear makeup.
Tonight I’ve been thinking.
I hide my struggles and I always will when I’m in a working environment. Even if it’s me volunteering at Guides. I want to try to be professional enough, and that means trying to come across as perfect, that’s I’m fine and I have everything figured out.
But is the right thing to be doing when I have young girls, teenage girls watching me?
We live in a really cool age where social media gives us the ability for us all to have a voice, to be seen. But our online life and real life don’t match up do they?
Most of the girls at guides have an image that what they see on Instagram is achievable. That a constant level of beauty and a certain lifestyle is maintainable. Social media is getting better at giving us glimpes of the reality behind starts lives, but young girls don’t fully appreciate this just yet.
So by being a perfect role model, am I just adding to this?
Like I mentioned before, the guides will never know about my struggles with my mental health. But am I really being true to myself and to the girls?
At camps when they ask if I ever get homesick and I say no, even though I really do, who is that lie benefiting? Would they feel more able to tell me their feeling sad if I’m honest with them and say it’s ok to because I feel that way too at the end of a long camp?
When one of the older girls asks me how I found end of year exams at school, and I reply saying that they weren’t too bad, am I giving them the opertunity to tell me their worries? Or am I just making them feel isolated because it didn’t struggle and they are? Truth be told, I struggled with end of year exams a lot.
I’m protecting my porcilin idea that I have to be perfect, but maybe that’s not right.
Maybe, to be a role model, I need to show that I’ve struggled in the past because it’ll give them hope of a future.
I made it and I believe they can too, so isn’t it about time I start showing them that?