The Self-Esteem Hangout: What I Taught the Girls on Being Beautiful + Photos + a Big Announcement!

Maybe I should start with the big announcement. 

As some of you may know, I have been talking about my self-esteem development project for a while now; even announced it on my Instagram and Twitter with the label, project X.  The plan had been to do something similar to the ‘I am Beautiful’ campaign we launched back in 2016 but, no sooner had we stepped into the year 2018, ideas around teaching young girls that there is more to them beyond their looks started to drop strongly in my heart and somehow, I knew what my theme for this year’s project would be.

I’ve tagged it ‘Beyond the Surface’.

A lot of things influenced my choice of this theme, but the most influential of all would be my recent encounters with girls who prioritize looking good on the outside, over substance. It pains me because I can understand what it means to seek your self-worth in beautiful, trending material things. I mean, I was there too, but I also know that these things in themselves cannot take you far. The aim of this project, therefore, is to teach as many as I can, within my sphere of influence that beyond how you look, beyond whether or not you are considered beautiful, beyond the things you wear and adorn yourself with, there is still something greater to you.

Guess what, guys? After such a long time coming, we finally launched this project on the 6th of October, 2018 and I am glad, really glad because I now get to tick this off my to-do! First thing was hosting a group of teenage girls in my community to a small hangout and over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing the things we made out of this day (in photos and videos) with you. Today, however, I would like to share a few photos from the hangout and what I taught the girls on being beautiful beyond the surface.


.1. Beyond your looks, you have a purpose:

If you have been on my blog before, you would have heard me say this countless times. You also might have heard this from different other places outside of here. Whether or not you have though, this is still one truth I need you to know. You have a purpose and I’d explain.

On the day of the hangout, I asked the girls if they’ve ever bought a blender for the purpose of ironing their clothes with it. They all said no. It’s the same way you don’t buy a knife and then use it for cleaning your ears. Each and every one of these objects has a reason for which they have been invented and because we know what that reason is, we use them for it. It’s the same with you. When God created you, He didn’t just create you to come see what this world looks like, grow to a certain age and then die.  

No. He created you – at the time, the age and into the family & country that you were born – intentionally. By the time you were being drawn out of your mother’s stomach, God already knew who you were and who you are supposed to grow into. He then gave you different gifts, potentials, and talents to become that person.

Now, is it possible for a person to live through life without ever becoming who God has created her to be? The answer is yes. But if you want to (& you should want to), the first thing to do is to get into a relationship with God. As you begin to know more of God, He will reveal who you are & the things He has created you to do, step-after-step, day-after-day, process-after-process. I really don’t want to rush over this, but if you need a clearer understanding beyond what I’ve explained here, please tell me in the comments and I will reach out to you personally.

Anyway, that person you will become when you begin to walk in God’s purpose for your life has a great future. She is confident. She is secure. She leads a fulfilling life. She is radiant and much more beautiful than one who only looks good physically.

.2. Beyond your looks, you have a brain:

At the hangout, I asked the girls if they knew about Michelle Obama. A couple of them said yes. I then asked if when they thought of her, the first thing that comes to their mind is ‘Ooh, Michelle Obama has big boobs!’. While I couldn’t guarantee their answers, even though they had all said no, I knew that when I think of Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey, the first thing that stands them out for me is not how glowing their skins look.

Michelle is beautiful, so is Oprah, so is Tife Soloye, Nkechi Idimnachi and a couple of other women that inspire me. However, their beauty is not skin-deep. A lot of other things have come together to make them the figures that we admire today. So, I asked the girls to think deeply about what makes them truly beautiful (besides their looks) and write them down in worksheets, from which they would come out to read to the rest of us later. You should have seen my face when the girls came out and began to say things like ‘my intelligence makes me beautiful’.

I mean, what’s a beautiful girl without brains? I told them to ask themselves sincerely and  (and I’m asking you too) if ‘at this stage, someone can sit to have an intelligent conversation with you?’, ‘if, in a gathering, you can contribute brightly to help solve a problem or drive a situation forward?’, ‘if, when you raise a point amongst a group, your arguments are clever?’, ‘if, you can stand to represent your class, family or organization at an event or function?’ and ‘if you really speak or write well?’

Please, don’t rush over these answers. Take your time. If you find that you have work to do on yourself, please. Strive till you get an education, keep reading books, be open to learn new things (even from the internet and social media) and surround yourself with intelligent people. You have a brain and as you grow, you’ll find that a brilliant woman is much more beautiful than one who only looks good physically.

.3. Beyond your looks, you have a heart:

Another thing I was happy to see some of the girls write on their worksheet was kindness. This is because  I was just planning to share with them a story I heard of a woman who lost her life in a plane crash. At her funeral, her family and friends had been called to say significant things about her while she was alive and all everyone had to say was how she loved to wear good clothes and shoes.

That story, amongst other similar ones I’ve heard, reminded me that physical beauty is very unsustainable. At death, it will rot. When that happens, what is left of a person is the legacy they leave behind and how meaningful their lives were. This is where impact comes in.

Impact in this sense means leaving a positive mark in the lives of the people around us and consequently, in the society at large.

I taught the girls what I had learnt – that making an impact is not a function of how much they could have in their bank accounts, neither is it a function of their ages, social class or background. That they can touch people’s lives simply by the words of their mouths and the actions of your hands, no matter how little they seem. Now, I’m passing it forward to you here as well – that beyond your looks, you have a heart and from the goodness & kindness therein, you will be seen as beautiful, far more than what your looks alone can offer.

.4. Beyond your looks, you can add value:

I told the girls the story of Claire Wineland – a 21-year-old girl on whose YouTube channel I had stumbled some days before. I had been awed to see a young girl giving a TEDx talk with an oxygen tube running across her face, so I googled her and found that Claire had been living with cystic fibrosis all her life – a condition that blocked her breathing because mucus was in her lungs.

Claire was born with this disease and she grew up not looking like the average, ideal teenage girl with a normal life. She always had to wear her oxygen tube and she lived practically all her life in a hospital. Yet, despite everything, Claire kept spreading positivity and supporting other people who had chronic and terminal diseases. She created a foundation for this cause, became an activist & author and impacted lots of lives until her death. Claire Wineland died at 21, but she added immense value to this world while she was alive – despite everything.

I told the girls that irrespective of how they looked, there is not one of them who is incapable of adding value. I’m saying this to you too. Each and every one of us has something that we can offer to make this world a better place. It could be offering a solution to a problem around you, putting your skills to good use to create something another person needs, or simply helping a friend out with something. Whatever it is, however you look, you can add value and this stands you out far more than a merely beautiful face ever will.

.5. Beyond your looks, you have character:

Finally, I taught the girls that beyond their looks, they have character. I had found a verse in the Bible earlier in the year that read “Scour the Insides, then the steaming (beautiful) surface will mean something”, and it had really struck me how utterly meaningless it all is when the outward is glam, but the inside is nothing – no depth, no substance, no character.

I taught the girls that covering up a bad character with a beautiful appearance is like packing up rotten food in a crystal ware. Eventually, the maggots will start to crawl out and the smell will leak. This is the last thing I’m passing forward to you in this post. Whatever you do, please focus on the kind of woman you are becoming and build your character, for it will sustain your relationships longer than a beautiful face ever will. 

Now, by no means am I saying that you shouldn’t look good. Please, look good. Take care of your bodies. Take care of your clothes. Wash your bra, biko. Wash your hair. Be neat in your appearances and smell nice. Having done all of that, remember that without substance, it’s still all empty and that’s the major thing I want you to take out from this project.

Did you learn anything from this post? Please share with me in the comments. Also, like I asked the girls, what other things do you think you have or can do that makes you truly beautiful beyond your looks? Share that with me in the comments too.

Till later, with love,


pS: When we start releasing the photos for our beyond the surface campaign, you can join us too. Will share more details on this later. 

ppS: I just have to say a big thank you to everyone who made our hangout a huge success. Adeoye Soniregun, Tosin Olateru, Abayomi, Christiana Ojo, Maureen, Lara and everyone else who came, gave and supported one way or the other. Thank you so much, guys. You rock!

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Author: Seun Olagunju

I'm just a simple 24-year-old girl, living for One and working to make the world a better place than I met it. I love to teach and tell stories, which is what I do as a blogger. I'm also the founder of Beyond the Surface Development Initiative. There, I reach out to teenagers by educating and empowering them, with an aim to curb the increasing number of teenage pregnancies and school drop-outs in Nigeria. When I'm not writing or involved in a social project, I work as a Product Manager with a tech firm in Lagos, Nigeria.

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