The Girl Talk Story
One cozy evening in March, a group of college women gathered together to enjoy Red Velvet cupcakes and to talk about relationships. However, like the chocolate we love so much, our story is much deeper and richer than that...
During my junior year of college, I worked as a student minister. On my campus, these student leaders are entrusted with the mission of building relationships and community within their residence halls and across campus. The more I got to know my freshmen residents through programs, events, and simply hanging out, the more I grew to love them. We built relationships of trust out of the silly moments painting our nails and talking about guys to the deeper moments of sharing how much we missed home or were struggling to fit in. The more my residents trusted me, the more they shared with me. By second semester, the concerns I heard from these women had moved beyond homesickness and academic struggles to deep questions of their own self-worth. Three women in particular drew my attention to something very real and raw.
Rachel* and I had developed a very close relationship since the beginning of the year. She was excelling academically and pursuing her talents as a gifted artist, but was experiencing an extremely challenging freshmen year. She faced a lot of rejection from the new girls on her floor, and experienced tremendous pressure from her family to lose weight. She felt like she could never measure up, that she would never be good enough for anyone. Although she was beautiful, it was hard for her to recognize this with such pressure and rejection. Rachel felt ugly, unloved, and ultimately worthless. One night I received a call that Rachel had attempted to take her own life. My heart sank.
Caitlin* was a goofball! I always looked forward to seeing her whenever I visited her floor. She was a natural leader, filled with energy, and always had a sassy comment for me. We developed a strong friendship, and she shared some of her deepest concerns with me. She felt unloveable. She confided that no one would ever really appreciate the real her if they actually got to know her. I watched this fun-loving, beautiful 18-year-old toss herself from guy to guy to guy. Each week I heard about her latest hookup, and held a new set of tears. One day, Caitlin and I went for a walk together, and she looked at me scared and helpless in the freezing wind, "Julie, I think I'm pregnant."
Vanessa* was shy and quiet. She came to several of my events and always seemed to enjoy herself, but I never saw much interaction between her and my other residents. Soon I noticed her around campus, with a pretty consistent boyfriend. She seemed content, but isolated. Most of her time was spent in his hall, with his friends, and her roommates were missing out on her company. One night, I hosted a Pinterest Party for my residents, and Vanessa asked if she could help me clean up afterwards. While we were throwing away scrap paper and popsicle sticks, she confided, "I don't know what to do. He forced himself on me, but it's all my fault."
Rachel. Caitlin. Vanessa. Each of these women felt alone in her struggle. Like she was the only one.
It turns out, they weren't alone. Other women right next door were dealing with the same kind of struggles. Feeling alone. Scared. Ugly. Unwanted. Rejected. Unloved. We've all felt that way. I know I have. My best friend has. My roommates, cousins, friends, and teammates have. We've all asked ourselves that haunting question: Am I enough?
As I maintained my relationships with Rachel, Caitlin, and Vanessa, and helped them connect with the resources they needed while affirming them of their incredible value, my mind still continued to race. I still heard the same questions and fears echo down my residence hall. I needed to find a way to let these women know that they weren't alone. That they were loved.
In March of 2012, with the help of my friends, I decorated invitation after invitation with more glitter and bows than my fingers knew how to tie. We ordered dozens of Red Velvet cupcakes, and advertised through the halls that this was a chance to "talk about boys" and eat chocolate! Over forty women showed up that night in comfy slippers and pillows ready for some "girl talk."
Feeling extremely nervous and excited all at the same time, I began to share my story. I told the girls about the guy I continued to be crazy about even though he made me feel worthless. I told them about my best friend who abandoned me for a new set of friends. I told them about the moments in the morning when I would wake up, look in the mirror, and desperately wish I had someone else's skin. I shared with them my pain, my rejection, my utter unloveability...and I also shared my happiness. How I was so grateful to have incredible men and women in my life who I looked up to. The deep peace I had at knowing I am infinitely cherished. The love I felt from my friends and family even when I didn't always know how to love myself. I reminded the girls that they were always GOLD-no matter how ugly or lonely they felt, no matter what experiences they had been through, no matter what society was telling them. They were beautiful, loveable, and not just enough...but more than enough. Priceless.
At the end of the night, I sat back with the same feeling of exhaustion and satisfaction you get after finishing a term paper--I thought it was over. But before my residents left, they all asked me, "So, Julie...when's the next one?" I guess there was more in store for the message of Girl Talk.
So we got together again and talked about friendship. And then we got together again and talked about body image and self esteem. And then we got together again and talked about relationships. And we kept getting together to continue the conversation. I am happy to say that Rachel, Caitlin, and Vanessa were among those first leaders of Girl Talk, and are all beautiful examples of courageous women inspiring me and the women around them!
The Girl Talk conversation is still going strong. Incredible women on college campuses are building friendships, encouraging one another, and reminding each other of our real beauty, worth, and value. We're sharing our personal stories, building each other up and challenging each other to live authentically and be the best women we can be.
Girl Talk...It's personal.
:: Julie Larkin, Founder of Girl Talk ::
*The real names of Rachel, Caitlin, and Vanessa have been changed for anonymity.