In January of 2011 my high school was completely wrapped up in preparing for our annual school play. Practices were in full swing, and if you walked through our hallways after school you could hear the different pieces coming together from behind closed classroom doors. One dark winter afternoon, as I waited for my friend to finish up practice so that we could go home, I sat myself down in the gym to watch danceIn my school, the girls who get into dance are always the cutest, “coolest.” practice. In my school, the girls who get into dance are always the cutest, “coolest” girls in school. And so, as I watched them repeat the moves that the Dance Heads were trying to drill into their very existence, my eyes wandered to one particular girl. To this day she is one of the sweetest, nicest, best people I know. She is also cute and bubbly and pretty and extremely likable. As I watched, those seeds of frustration and doubt in every teenage girl’s mind cropped up in mine. I so badly wanted to be like her. And, as I sat there wishing I could look like someone I was not, I realized there was something significantly wrong about the situation. From pre-school age, we are told over and over again that we are special, that we are princesses. Yet, so many girls, especially teenagers, continuously struggle with feelings of inadequacy and ugliness. How can that be?

I am not a passive person by nature. That night, I came home and was determined to try and change things. I e-mailed my friend, Rebecca Berlin, and asked her if she was interested in embarking on this mission with me. She e-mailed back moments later with an enthusiastic “yes!” We quickly got to work and began brainstorming names for our new project. And so, in March of last year, Rebecca and I launched I.M, or I.M. a One and Only. We were both tired of the voices in our heads saying that we weren’t good enough. Those voices are never satisfied- to them, we will never be good enough. Together, we were determined to change the way that girls tend to view themselves. We were going to go against the voice of society and hopefully make a change.

We live in a world where perfection has become the new standard. One teacher of mine used to always comment that we were walking around with calculators that had higher technology than what NASA used to first send man to the moon. People buy new cars, new phones, and newWe live in a world where perfection has become the new standard. computers as they come out with improvements because good isn’t good enough. And, while people aren’t appliances, this is still the mentality of our generation. Gloss and falsehood is preferable to good and truth. We are not as good as the next best thing. Teenagers, with minds and perspectives still forming, are even more susceptible to this poison.

At I.M., our aim is to create a movement- a movement of girls who not only know but feel that they are daughters of Hashem. An army of girls who are armed and ready to take on the world because they are prepared with the understanding that they are capable of doing so. No goal is too big, no mountain is too high, no dream is too irrational. At the same time, we are determined to offer our peers support- the kind of the support that is only possible for someone who feels the same to give. We want to provide a space where Baila, coming home from school after aNo goal is too big, no mountain is too high, no dream is too irrational. long day of bullying herself nonstop can gain comfort from Malka, who is struggling with perfectionism and that fact that she will never be good enough. And the truth of the matter is that this is a plague that afflicts everyone, women, men, girls and boys. This is an illness that has the ability to cripple the seemingly most confident, happiest, most successful person you know. Feelings of inadequacy are expertly hidden behind smiles and laughter. A person driven to succeed is often most driven by fears of failure that haunt her every move. And no matter how successful she becomes, a single word can send her back to cowering from monsters that only she is able to see.

We are the am hanivchar- G‑d’s chosen nation- but when we face the external world of billboards and magazines, and often times our own cruel thoughts, we forget this all important tie. We are a holy nation composed of holy people. It is essential to our existence that we know this. Our leader Moses, the most humble man of all time, wrote that statement about himself. It is important to know our attributes so we can accurately assess our flaws and climb our own personal ladders of growth. We want to start a movement. We want to change the world. Nevertheless, a single person is equivalent to a world and so if one girl goes to sleep tonight thinking to herself, “I am a one and only,” well, then we’ve succeeded.