To get the project started, Aulfinger contacted more than 1,000 people and organizations in order to do research and to solicit inspirational stories and exercises for the book.
She received more than 40 stories from women nationwide, all of them “heartfelt and meaningful,” she said. Although she was only able to use a selection of them in the book, they span many ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, she said.
“Their stories are therefore indicative of how the challenges to self-esteem are universal, but that you can overcome them, as these women did,” Aulfinger said.
Stories are attributed using only a first name and age to protect anonymity or to ensure the reader can picture themselves in each story, she said.
“I received stories that ranged from body image issues, eating disorders, cutting, bullying, abuse from parents or significant others, gender discrimination, and many others,” she said. “I chose to downplay the negative aspects of the stories to remain age-appropriate for my sixth grade audience, but highlighted the positive steps the women had taken to overcome adversity, in order to inspire my readers to do the same.”
Sharing her plan with others in person and through social media, Aulfinger raised the $5,000 needed to print the 80-page booklet.
“For me, seeing an increase in ‘girl power’ in the young women around me, a decrease in the bullying which is so prevalent in schools these days, and helping girls to navigate the harsh waters of middle and high school without losing their faith in themselves, is the driving force behind my spending the over 600 hours I’ve spent this past year in writing and producing my book,” she said. “I hope that girls will be inspired by the stories, look at themselves in the mirror with a smile instead of a frown, and aspire to change the world in their own unique way.”