Last Monday, Oct. 26, some of Union’s sororities, including Delta Delta Delta, Sigma Delta Tau, Gamma Phi Beta, and Alpha Delta Lambda, hosted a talk by Erin Foley, a sorority alumna and communication and gender studies scholar, about empowering young women.
In her talk, Foley spoke about the idea that when most girls arrive at college, they tend to search for the ideal group of friends similar to those pictured on their Facebook walls or Instagram feeds.
She said they want a great group of women to join them on their journey of self-discovery. However, she stated, societal myths often hinder young women from reaching their potential for self-growth. She emphasized that groups, such as sororities, are great platforms for creating empowering relationships that allow women to become more confident and satisfied people.
While her talk was geared toward the sorority community, Foley’s speech presented several different myths that young women, sorority or non-sorority, often succumb to, which she then refuted.
The first myth Foley presented was that a woman’s beauty has the ability to bring her happiness, so long as she fits the unrealistic beauty goals presented by the media. If you look at any magazine cover, said Foley, you’ll find women who fit the media’s perfect standards, such as flawless skin, tan legs and a thin frame.
Foley said women often begin to believe the cover stories, thinking that if they lose those extra two pounds or wear the right type of foundation, then who they are will be perfect.
Negative self-talk and perfectionism then spread like a plague to these women, said Foley.
She recommended implementing nurturing self-talk to combat these attitudes, which allows for people to recognize that they are enough as is.
Another myth Foley addressed was how women always need to be in competition with one another. She said this is fueled by the idea that there is only a limited amount of wealth, success, beauty and happiness to go around.
The world becomes one of comparison, judgment and resentment towards one another, she said. What if we could foster relationships where the success of friends is celebrated like our own personal achievement?
A Sigma Delta Tau member, Jackie Seltzer ’17, reacted to the speaker, stating, “I thought it was really important for girls to hear what she was saying, because everything she was saying was so relatable. Because it’s exactly how girls talk with each other.”
Foley emphasized that organizations that gather women together have the opportunity to challenge these myths and empower women, allowing them to thrive together.
Foley’s speech was targeted at helping women overcome a syndrome that she said she and the majority of women have experienced throughout their lives: the “then I’ll be happy syndrome.”
Women are constantly thinking they’ll be happy when they lose the three pounds, when they get the diploma, when they get married, when they have kids, she said.
The problem, as Foley explained, is that there’s always something else to be gained and, therefore, many women fail to ever achieve this genuine happiness.
The key to happiness is to be thankful for what you have, rather than to mourn what you don’t have, Foley stated.
As the sororities and Union students listened to Dr. Foley, they laughed, interacted and analyzed the lives they live. Some students in attendance said they were inspired to venture on their genuine paths to happiness, to confidence and to empowerment.
After years as a college professor, Foley is currently a public speaker and life coach who aims to help others, specifically college-aged women, to be their best selves, she said.