As a teen girl, there’s a lot of pressure to look and act a certain way. According to the Canadian Women Foundation, a staggering 50 per cent of all girls in Canada say that they wish they were someone else. Whether it’s feeling too tall, too short, not smart enough or not at all beautiful, these negative feelings impact their self-confidence and their sense of identity.
In this instalment of Be a Villager, we sit down with Dee Buryk, founder of Growing Goddesses, an after school program that helps girls navigate through these negative feelings and turn them into something positive so that they can learn to love who they are and truly reach their potential.
VJ: In your work with teen girls, what do you see as the most common issues facing them today?
DB: Across the board, eating disorders is the number one health problem in Canada. I read a recent statistic from the USA Girl Scouts the other day that says one-third of girls have either starved themselves or refused to eat in order to become thinner.
It just reminds us of how tough it is to be a girl. There are so many messages out there about how to look and what the ideal body image is. And it’s not just through the media; there’s social pressure as well. Girls get clouded with these images and get lost in that negative space.
The second most common health problem is self-esteem. A recent study showed that 36 per cent of girls in grade 6 are confident in themselves and this plummets to 14 per cent by the time they’re in grade 10. As a result they become depressed and develop feelings of helplessness.
VJ: How does Growing Goddesses help girls face these issues?
DB: With Growing Goddesses, I try to provide the space and the tools to make a paradigm shift from the negative to the positive so that these girls can empower each other and find confidence in themselves.
We meet once a week after school and through yoga, fitness, nutrition and many other activities, I try to help girls learn how to stop comparing themselves to others and start embracing their individuality.
We start each workshop with a different intention, like creativity, authenticity or trust. For example, in the creativity workshop, every girl would have brought in their favourite ingredient for a salad. We learn how to nourish our bodies with healthy meals and then together, we build one big salad with all of our ingredients. Each class ends with goal setting, journaling and key takeaways.
Another component of our program is Gratitude Day. This is when I bring in mentors: strong females who are doing great things in their fields. We’ve heard from photographers, lawyers, olympians and dancers…the list goes on.
VJ: Where did the idea of Growing Goddesses come from?
DB: I guess this journey started when I was in high school. I was always super tall and incredibly shy to a point where my face went really red when I met new people. I had to teach myself to learn how to say ‘hi.’ I had self-esteem issues based on that and I had to coach myself out of it.
In my fourth year of university, I was scouted to be a model. The agency I was with approached me to coach their academy program and I worked with girls aged 13 to 18. It was through this that I noticed girls’ lacked self-confidence. So I start teaching them yoga, fitness, nutrition and goal setting. It made a world of difference.
VJ: Who is your mentor?
DB: I’ve always had really strong women in my life. My mom started her own business and my sisters are also self-employed. They made me keep a good head on my shoulders while I was modelling. Today, I’m influenced by Gabrielle Bernstein and Marie Forleo. They inspire me to do what I’m doing.
VJ: How can we as a community help empower our young females?
DB: I don’t think negative messages are every going to go away. But I do think we have a part in educating ourselves and being more aware of our actions and what we project into the world. As soon as the average Torontonian nourishes themselves with self-love and care, they give permission for young females to feel they can do the same.
VJ: What’s in store for Growing Goddesses?
DB: I definitely want to grow the program in Toronto and I would like to start having summer camps up north where we can do entire weeks with the girls, such as canoe trips and activities outside. I’m also working on a side project called Mission Goddess, but the details are still a secret.
Village Juicery’s Be a Villager series takes a look at the men and women who have inspired us. They are members of our team, our partners and the larger community who, by honing in on their craft, are doing great things for the city in which we live.