Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi has partnered with Always for the feminine care company’s #LikeAGirl – Keep Going campaign, which works to help young girls gain confidence throughout puberty. Here, she recounts how getting her first C taught her a valuable lesson about self-worth.
I remember the first time I got a C in high school. It was for an essay on Pride and Prejudice in my honors English class, which hurt extra because I loved that book so much and thought I’d write beautifully about it.
I thought to myself, “Oh my god, this grade defines who I am!” I’m generally a good student—so I struggled with the idea that I might not be.
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Obviously, looking back, I know my entire future wasn’t planned because of this one grade. But understanding that was something I actively had to work on—first by not allowing myself to be defined by grades and, second, by not feeling as though every quantifier I was given was a reflection of who I am.
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But another important factor was that I’m fortunate to have a peer group that understands the importance of helping each other grow. Instead of losing confidence—instead of saying that I am a lost cause—I realized that I have room for improvement. I accepted that I can learn something from this. And after letting go of that grade as a detrimental thing that pushed me into a ridiculous alternate universe in which I do not succeed, I felt much better.
The #LikeaGirl campaign really stresses how easy it is for girls to lose confidence during puberty, and how that loss really does affect every other facet of life. It’s not regained if girls don’t have a support system. The main purpose of the campaign is to spread information, letting people know that losing confidence is a universal and shared experience.
As not only a young girl but also a young girl of color, I feel like it’s extremely important to allocate our resources to every member of society, especially the underserved. I’ve had the great luxury of being supported in every endeavor, growing up in environments that allowed me to thrive. But for a lot of people, puberty is a time that tests confidence, and if your setting is a hostile one, it can reaffirm the idea that you do not belong.
We need to be each other’s support networks because not everybody is in the space or environment in which they can comfortably and safely ask for help. And for ourselves, we need to create that safety net of people that we can turn to.
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So how do you do that? It’s a common thread among almost everyone that I love, support, and follow and who loves, supports, and follows me that we don’t want to shut people down. Really meaningful friendships and relationships, at the core, are about accepting what makes us individuals. It is important that so many girls know that confidence is a universal struggle—but that when something gets us down, we focus on rebuilding.
Later that same year in high school, I wrote an essay on a Langston Hughes poem called “Mother to Son” and got an A on it. Apparently it’s still one of the examples that my teacher uses in class.
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—As told to Claire Stern.