Free Being Me – the experience so far

We are now halfway through the Free Being Me resource pack at our Guide unit. It’s been a good experience and the resource pack is very helpful. The youth development worker in me would like certain bits to be a little clearer for the leaders and girls (some of bits are a little bit too cheesey or the activity not particularly well explained) but overall it’s been great and easy enough to use. The most helpful feature is the grid at the beginning of the session telling you exactly what is needed for each task (very helpful to give a quick glance to check there isn’t something we need to get before the meeting that we don’t already have in our resources).

There are some ‘Before You Start‘ suggestions that we’ve used, and some we would have liked to have incorporated if we’d have had more time.

1. Free Being Me wall

We have now set a corner of our noticeboard to be our ‘Free Being Me’ wall. The idea is that we can post quotes, pictures, ideas, stories that inspire us to be ourselves. At our last session, I started our night with a little horseshoe around the noticeboard next to the Free Being Me section, and read the quotes that had been added so far by myself and one of our older Guides. A lot of the girls had already forgotten its existence. By the end of the night, another quote had been added. I’m wishing now we’d started every session at the Free Being Me wall, as I think it would have been a good focus point to begin each session.

**Update 30/03/2015 – we now have a wall COVERED in inspirational quotes and notes by the girls**

2. Treasure Inside Me Boxes

Unfortunately we didn’t quite get this off the ground on the first week as I’d planned due to some unforeseen circumstances. However, on the first night as the girls came in I got them to decorate sticky labels with their names on ready for some small kilner type jars I got in Ikea (80p each). These now sit at the front of our hall with some cut out bits of paper every meeting. The idea is that the girls can leave notes with encouraging and positive messages in each others’ jars. This week there were groups that finished tasks more quickly than others, so I encouraged a group of girls to see whose jars were emptiest and focus on ensuring everyone had a note. It was a delight to then see others then wanting to do the same. It did mean we didn’t get our final task done at the last session though!

3. Secret Friend

We haven’t done this, but I think it would have been a great thing to do. The idea is that every participatnt has a ‘secret friend’ from the group, and they find ways to make their secret friend feel good about themselves without revealing who they are.

Again, time prevented us from setting this up.

Session 1

I really recommend using the Dove Evolution video for explaining the Image Myth. You can find it here (they’ve made it so I can’t even embed it in my blog post unlike most YouTube videos).  I managed to set up my phone 3G to connect to my iPad so we could watch it. I really wish Dove made it available to download the video, as many units like our own, do not have internet access at their meeting place.

We had to watch it more than once for the girls to really understand what was going on, and what they changed.

Another thing that helped was having a big roll of paper – for doing our group discussions on body image. I also struggled to find age appropriate magazines (and WOW are they expensive?!). I ended up getting Teen Vogue, Top Model and Shout.

There were however way too many activities crammed into this session, and they had definitely underestimated the timings in the pack. If you really want to give your girls a chance for discussion (especially if you have a unit of more than 10 girls and are having to split into small groups and then come together as a larger group for feedback) then I would say split your session 1 into two weeks – maybe use some of the first week to create your ‘Treasure me boxes’, set up secret friends, do Guidelines, Free Being Me wall and so on. The discussion part is important, and the girls gain nothing if they aren’t given a chance to learn and critically reflect on the questions and information being put before them.

Session 2

Session 2 was much easier to manage as it was only two activities. Keeping the girls focused to get both done was the main challenge!

Session 3

Session 3 needs leaders. Thankfully all 3 of us were able to be there, otherwise it would have been a struggle, as you needed at least three ‘mission stations’, each one to be manned by a leader.

We’ve also had an additional session with the Photographer who came into do a workshop with the girls to plan their self portraits, as they have decided on how they want them to look, what props they want to bring to help show who they are. Over the next few weeks the girls will be going into the photography studio at a local college campus to get their photos taken. The girls had so many great ideas for this, and also got to hear from a Photographer how photoshop isn’t always a bad and evil thing if used well and not to completely alter the photograph, about setting up shots, how different elements can tell a story or give an impression.

Meanwhile, I’ll let you see a few messages the Guides wanted to share with you relating to the Image Myth:

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“Everyone is beautiful in the outside but personality is the thing that counts not photos and make up!”

“Make up doesn’t make you pretty it’s in the name “make up” it makes you something you’re not. Now, wear your smile, you suit it!”

“Make up doesn’t  radiate who you are, it doesn’t make you. It’s your uniqueness that makes you you”

“If you look fake! People won’t know you are real!”

“Even if you cover yourself in cosmetics you will still be the same person!”

“It is your personality that matters, not how fake you look”

“Even the people in the magazines don’t look like that!”

“I want to scream and shout and let it all out – spread the word and say what is right about looks!”

“I really hate the image myth because image myth can be quite hurtful if you are the model being shown”

“Don’t fall for the image myth otherwise the image myth will fall for you”

“What matters is the way YOU are, not who other people are, because you only be you, not a version of another person. Make sure you’re not doing anything that you don’t want to be doing. Make sure you do things for your own benefit”

“Be who you are want to be – not what other people think you should be!”

“The way you look only says a tiny bit about who you are. Make time to get to know the real you and other people”

We only have a couple of more sessions to go, so I’ll keep you posted when I can. Hope this helps any other leaders and peer educators planning to do Free Being Me. 

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