When I was 15 years old, I was struggling with poor body image, low self-esteem, mental health challenges, relationship pressures, and so much more. After realizing that all of my friends were struggling as well, I became frustrated. The problems we were facing were immense, life-threatening, and serious. Why was no one speaking about them? Why did I feel so alone?
I decided to do something. If no one else was going to talk about these pressing issues, then I would.
I gathered my friends, went to my guidance counselor, and asked to give a workshop to a group of 8th grade girls. I was 15 years old, and determined to become the person that I needed while growing up.
In May of 2013, I delivered my first ever self-confidence empowerment workshop. I spoke openly and honestly about the issues I was facing, and created a space for others to share as well.
After watching the film Miss Representation, and becoming inspired, I decided to keep going. At the second workshop, I met a girl named Lexie Phipps. We decided to form an organization called MOVE: Motivate. Overcome. Value. Empower.
Since then, Lexie and I have spent the past few years traveling around New England delivering MOVE self-confidence workshops to middle and high school aged girls. We have primarily focused on issues like body image, self-esteem, mental health, and relationship pressures.
Additionally, Lexie and I have directed FIVE (!) MOVE week-long summer programs.
Programs by the Representation Project, like the Global Youth Advisory Council, have furthered my motivation to work with young women, and are part of the reason why I do what I do.
I have also published two books. One of them is a 300 page survival guide for middle and high school aged girls entitled, ‘Survival of the Prettiest’ and seeks to help girls navigate the turbulent world of body image, mental health, and relationships through adolescence.
As I enter my senior year at UMass Amherst, I am 21 years old and believe more than ever that education surrounding body image, mental health, and relationships are critical. More than that, I believe that this kind of education must be accessible. Because of my commitment to accessible education, I have spent 2018 creating an online video series, called ‘Let’s Talk About It: A Workshop Series For Girls’, so that way ANYONE in ANY location who wants my curriculum and uplifting messages can have them.
In truth, I am so incredibly proud of my online program. My workshop series has 10 different workshops, in which I cover everything from strategies for body-positivity, to how to identify common symptoms of eating disorders, to how to help a friend with a mental health condition, to how to give or decline consent. This workshop is perfect for middle and high school aged girls, as well as anyone who wants to understand the challenges many young girls are facing. This workshop series is exactly what I wish I had when I was younger.
Additionally, schools have started implementing my curriculum as well. Millis Public Schools in Massachusetts is the first school system to have picked it up, and I am in communication with many other schools.
And the best part? If a girl or parent wants the program – they can have it. I have an extremely accessible scholarship program, and I am committed to my mission being my message. I truly believe in the work that I am doing, and I believe in it because I know how life-changing it is. MOVE has changed my life, and I believe it can change yours as well.
If you would like to support the young women in your life, check out my online workshop series, or contact me for more information, please visit https://www.ashleyolafsen.com – I would love to speak further.