Posted on July 08 2015
Photo Credit: Visual Poison
This week's Wednesday Woman is the empowering Lauren Galley. Award-winning teen mentor and best selling author, Lauren started non-profit Girls Above Society to help build confidence and leadership skills in young girls around the world. As you can imagine, we think she is pretty awesome and, she's achieved all these accolades at only 20 years-old. Read her inspirational story here:
Bardega: Lauren tell us a little bit about your background and what you were like as a kid?
Galley: When I was younger, I was VERY shy, if you could believe that! Talking to a stranger, even to ask directions to the ladies room, seemed like a very scary thing. However, through my shyness, I did a lot of listening and I absorbed every bit of knowledge I heard.
I have always taken my academics very seriously, and always loved to read... I still do (I just wish I could clone myself so I could spend lazy days snuggled up with a great book), so I spent my younger years developing my listening skills and reading every book I could get my hands on! I also had my first dose of mean girls when I was about six years old, which totally perplexed me. A girl in my dance class said my picture on the wall was “ugly” and I remember thinking, “What is wrong with this girl?! Why would anyone be so mean?” Unfortunately, as we all know, mean girls don’t disappear after the age of seven, in fact, they do quite the opposite. This was a wakeup call to me, because before this moment I had never faced the wrath of “mean”, especially since I have been blessed with such a loving family and support system.
Bardega: What inspired you to set up Girls Above Society?
Galley: In middle school, I was cyberbullied terribly by a girl who was supposed to be my friend. I remember logging in to my MySpace account online and reading the horrible things she said about me, posted for the world to see. Even though my world was really quite small, I felt as though every continent read this mean post. My heart dropped into my chest, and even though I knew everything she said was not true, I still thought… “What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t she like me?” What happened to the six-year-old version of myself? I suddenly had the mindset of “What’s wrong with ME?”
Luckily, I overcame this experience (with lots of support) and gained a huge dose of confidence. As I entered high school, I realised I was far from being alone. Almost every girl had a story similar to mine, or they knew someone who had been, or was, being bullied. Over time, I realised that a lack of self-confidence in girls is the real issue here. The media places unrealistic expectations on young girls every day, and the the sooner we learn how to believe in ourselves and empower each other, the sooner we will end the gossip, drama, and negativity for good. Before I knew it, Girls Above Society was formed, and by helping other girls believe in themselves, I began a journey of discovering the impact of my own self-worth.
Bardega: You are extremely busy, how do you manage all the different hats you wear whist also studying at university?
Galley: I get this question a lot! The best answer I can give you is that my planner is my best friend. I have learned that time management is my BFF over the years of being the president of a non-profit.
I am the type of person who enjoys being busy and feeling as though I have a purpose however, I also enjoy downtime as much as the next person! If I know I am going to have a really busy week, I will take the weekend to relax with family and friends. The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone with a full schedule is that it’s okay to ask for help. When I feel overwhelmed, I know I have people I can look to for help and support.
Even though I am doing what I love and most often it doesn’t seem like work, I am grateful for an amazing and supportive Board of Directors that empower me to always reach a little further along my journey. Traveling and speaking to tween and teen girls is something I am so passionate about, so I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else! When I graduate with my Masters and begin my career, I am excited to see how I will include Girls Above Society into my School Psychology profession.
Bardega: That's great to hear. You are empowering so many teens but who have been your role models and how have they inspired you?
Galley: I am lucky to have had a lot of really great role models and mentors in my life. The biggest ones that come to mind are definitely my parents. They have been so supportive of me throughout my journey, and no matter what, I know they will always be there for me. Most parents would be overwhelmed and perplexed if their daughter came to them and said “I want to start a non-profit!” Mine, on the other hand, said “Okay, let’s figure out our first step and go from there.”
Another huge role model of mine, who unfortunately I have never met, but maybe one day I will, is Emma Watson. I have always adored her for a number of reasons; not only is she incredibly talented, but she is also the epitome of girl power, and such a great role model for young girls, so I am happy to see her being portrayed in the media more frequently. She was recently honoured with the Campaigner of the Year award for her work with her HeForShe campaign, which is no surprise, since her passion for women’s rights is incredible.
Bardega: And what achievements are you most proud of?
Galley: The achievements I am most proud of would have to be the success of my books Steps to Success: An Empowerment Guide and Kissing Frogs: In Search of Prince Charming. Since high school, I have been comfortable speaking in front of people, empowering girls to be the best they can be, etc… However, if you would have told my 15-year-old self that in five years I would publish two books, I would tell you that you are absolutely insane. I never pictured myself as a professional writer or author. I always enjoyed it, but for whatever reason, my confidence level in that field was lacking. So, when I got the idea for my first book, I sat down and began an outline, not really taking it too seriously. Before I knew it, I had a pretty solid foundation and I realised… “I could actually do this!” When I published my first book, I couldn’t wait to start the next. Sometimes we just need to step outside of our comfort zone and try something new in order to discover our passions in life. Lesson learned here is “Never say Never”!!
Bardega: What projects are you currently working on?
Galley: I am currently working with the young girls at Camp Susan Curtis in Stoneham, Maine. Camp Susan Curtis is a summer camp which builds the individual character, self-confidence and self-esteem of economically disadvantaged youths. I’m so proud to be spending my third summer in this incredible place, empowering girls how to use their Girl Power to the fullest with my signature “Girl Talk” program! We have discussions about the pressures the media places on us, and the methods we can use to end the negative “noise” in our lives. And, of course, we do really fun and engaging activities that relate to our discussion.
Words can’t begin to describe how rewarding it is to see the girls again after a full school year, and hear them tell me how much our sessions helped them to believe in themselves and create successful friendships. It’s amazing how the smallest actions, which to us may seem insignificant, can change someone else’s life. That is a huge lesson I have learned while working with the girls at Camp Susan Curtis.
Bardega: Finally, what advice, if any, would you give a younger Lauren?
Galley: The advice I would give to my younger self is to stop worrying so much about what everyone else thinks of you. After you graduate, none of these people will matter anymore, but what will matter is who YOU have become. I spent a long time trying to alter myself and my appearance to be what I thought other people wanted me to be.
Looking back, I wish I would have spent more time discovering who I truly am inside, and realising that if others don’t like me for me, then I don’t need them. Popularity is a fictional idea of achievement that girls obsess over, believing this is the answer to fitting in. What they don’t realise is this… The day you walk across the stage and get your diploma, no one cares whether or not you were popular in high school, so spend that time gaining as much knowledge about every subject you can, discover what you are passionate about, and don’t be afraid to start chasing your dreams at a young age, because it will be the best and most rewarding feeling in the world!I know it’s tough and while going through our school years we feel this environment, fitting in and looking a certain way is our so-called world, but I encourage you to stop for a moment and see just how small your world is and set your sights on the big world that awaits you.
My Motto? “Girls compete with each other to achieve a falsehood of “perfection”. Stop competing, be YOU and gang up for good to create a positive future, not only for yourself but for all those little girls who are looking up to you.“ #BeThatGirl
Lauren on Twitter