Firebirds player Clare McMeniman shares how she suffered from low self esteem because of her height, bad posture and "gangly arm and legs and a face full of pimples" and explains how she overcame it thanks to her love of netball.
Claire also talks about the #TeamGirls movement and its aims to build confidence and self-esteem in our young women focusing on three core pillars of goal setting, sports participation and positive social behaviours..
It is hard to believe that even an elite athlete and Australian golden girl of netball could suffer from confidence issues. Have you ever lacked confidence?
Standing close to 6ft tall at the age of 12, with gangly arms and legs and a face full of pimples makes you stand out in a crowd of teenagers…I developed horrible posture from stooping to be shorter.
For me, those things rocked my confidence and the way in which I viewed myself in comparison to girls my own age. My mum encouraged me tirelessly to stand tall and put my shoulders back (and that I was beautiful) but I would rarely listen- I felt like it wouldn’t make a difference to how people saw me or how I felt about myself.
As a result I was often quite shy when meeting new people and they usually wouldn’t get to see the real version of me.
How did you overcome this?
Playing sport, not just netball, was where I felt most accepted. It created a network of people, many of whom remain my closest friends today. I felt like they understood and valued me, liked me for me (not the way I looked) and in turn expected that I would do the same for them. It took me a long time to grow into my own skin and realize that the way I looked had no bearing on how others viewed me as an individual, it was my actions and how I treated them that counted.
I now stand tall, with my shoulders back (most of the time)……perhaps I should’ve listened to my Mum.
What advice do you have for girls about body image? Have you ever struggled with body image?
The biggest thing I would encourage them to do is to stop comparing themselves to others and don’t place such an emphasis on what you look like. Recognise that everyone is their own unique version of beautiful….because how boring would it be if we were all the same. It comes from being the most authentic version of yourself.
I was doing a netball clinic with 9-14 year olds a couple of years ago and during Q and A one of the participants asked the question ‘Who do you think is the prettiest player in your team?’….it was like a dagger to the heart. I struggle so much with the concept that our young girls would value another person based more on the way that they look rather than who they are. I want young girls to understand what matters most is to be comfortable in your own skin, proud of who you are as a person and surrounded by people who empower you to do this.
Why do you think that Australian girls should participate in sport? Why do you think it is that more girls aren’t involved in sport?
For me it is simple, participating in sport can build self-confidence and assist with the creation of supportive networks. It is why I am so passionate and proud to support the #TeamGirls initiative. I love that Suncorp reached out to nearly 1000 teenage girls, to understand and identify that setting goals, participating in sport and having positive social behaviours are the key pillars which help to improve girls’ self-confidence. I don’t think that you can pinpoint a single reason for why some young girls don’t play sport or in some cases aren’t afforded the opportunity to participate. What I hope is for #TeamGirls to generate awareness around how goals, sport and positive social behaviours can help to build a nation of confident you women and create discussion about how we can make it happen.
How has netball been a positive influence in your life? Tell me about your own experiences with the benefits of sport.
The list is endless and it extends from understanding the importance of punctuality, being organised and completing a drill with precision to the creation of a life long network of meaningful friendships and being a part of something which is far bigger than me as an individual. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns though, netball has provided me with personal and professional challenges which sometimes make you question what you’re doing, who you are and why you even play. Overcoming those challenges, and in the process uncovering my character, is one of the things I have valued the most about it.
What are some lessons you learn on the court? How does this translate into real life?
Things won’t always go to plan; Be prepared to make changes, adapt to new circumstances, take risks if necessary and ensure that those around you are on the same page. Form meaningful connections with those around you- not just the ‘how was your weekend/the weather’ connections but ones where you understand and trust each other, acknowledge weaknesses, value strengths and use these to fulfil whatever you’re trying to achieve.
What advice do you have for young girls suffering from low self-esteem?
Tell someone. It is so important to share how you are feeling with a friend, family member or someone who can help you identify the reason why you feel that way and to work out ways to improve it. It’s so important to surround yourself with people who make you feel valued and pretty damn awesome in their company.
How does sport instil confidence and comradery in young women?
Joining with others who are working to achieve a common goal is powerful. Confidence comes when you create an environment where our girls are part of a culture based on being the best version of yourself, setting goals, being given a role and trying your hardest, valuing others for their contribution, solving problems, learning from errors, supporting each other and celebrating successes (even the small ones) together. Suncorp is launching #TeamGirls through Netball Australia – an existing community of women and girls who already demonstrate the values and behaviours of #TeamGirls and who can champion it with each other.
Why should young people set goals? What are your top three tips for effective goal setting?
For me, I’ve always set goals to remind me of where I want to go and what I need to do to get there. They’re not always grand scale either, last week my goal was to fold all of the clean washing which was piled up in the spare room…dream big! The life of a teenager however can be complex! Sometimes I think that teenage girls can get consumed in the drama associated with everyday life without thinking of the bigger picture. Setting goals for themselves can sometimes help remove them from teenage turmoil and provide focus, thoughtfulness and direction.
Why do you think there is such a social media addiction amongst young people these days? What are the negative effects? How can we combat this?
I’m cringing as I have to admit that I’m now guilty of this at times too. Why are we obsessed with looking at the lives of others rather than living our own?? I actually couldn’t imagine living as a teenager with social media. I think it becomes toxic when a large proportion of this generation is basing their self-worth on how many likes they get on Instagram. Social media will continue to be a presence in our lives though so awareness of the impact it has on teenagers self-esteem and education highlighting the importance of positive social behaviours is key for all teenagers and their parents (tech savvy or not).
The #TeamGirls content hub [http://suncorp.com.au/teamgirls] is a resource for parents giving tips on how they can help guide, support and improve /instil confidence in teenagers.