The story of Ophelia, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, illustrates how low self-esteem negatively affects women.Ophelia is a happy and free young girl. But with adolescence she loses herself when she falls in love with Hamlet. After that, she lives only for his approval.

She has no inner direction; rather she struggles to meet the demands of Hamlet and her father. Her value is determined utterly by their approval.

Gradually, Ophelia is torn by her efforts to please. When Hamlet spurns her, she goes mad with grief. Dressed in elegant clothes (intended to please him still) that weigh her down, she drowns in a stream filled with flowers.

Something dramatic happens to girls when they hit teenage years. Just as ships disappear mysteriously into the Bermuda triangle, so do the selves of girls go down in droves. They crash and drown in developmental Bermuda Triangles. Like Ophelia, they wear heavy clothes (and makeup) in order to please others- but clothes in which they will drown in.

To teach girls about self-worth, we need to tell them that it doesn’t come from pleasing others. Rather, self-worth comes from personal accomplishments. The more sources of personal accomplishments one has, the more oneself worth is.

A girl should picture herself as a lake. The more tributaries a lake has, the bigger it grows. By the same token, the more sources of accomplishments a person has, the more one feels good about herself- and thus high self-worth. Such tributaries can include being a drama club patron, a girl guide, a student leader, a successful choir leader etc.

Above all, we need to tell girls that the way you view yourself is how you teach others to view you. We also need to tell them to avoid people like Hamlet who, the more they stay with them, the more they hurt and hate themselves.

To achieve this ,parents,guardians and caregivers should equip themselves with the necessary skills to help children navigate adolescence.Such include the book Reviving Ophelia Saving the selves of adolescent girls Mary Pipher(Ph.D)

The book attempts to reveal, through the narratives of many young girls’ experiences, the reasons behind why adolescence proves to be such a period of turbulence, pain, underachievement, anger and discord in the lives of these seemingly bright, and talented girls. A few broad pointers that the writer stresses throughout the book are:

  • Girls today are much more oppressed than before.
  • The culture in which they are coming of age is more dangerous, sexualized, and media-saturated.
  • The culture is indeed toxic to the girls.

I would recommend this book not only for the relevance that is indicated above, but also for its rare insight into facets of modern life that films, television and fiction gloss over.The book is available on Amazon through this link:

Reviving Ophelia Saving the selves of adolescent girls

Go ahead and get yourself a copy-either as eBook or hard copy.

Gilbert Mwangi

Creative writer,dreamer,and Drum Major for all things true.


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