this Christmas, as I rushed around in my car, I heard the faint sound of beautiful harmonies…Christmas songs…outside, & I realized I hadn’t played any yet all season! very odd cause I usually play them from Thanksgiving till New Years. 😉
the Smith College (women) carolers, sing downtown every year. it strikes me each time, that these women are really unique, it’s really inspiring.
young women, unselfconscious, singing loud & proud & confidently….it reminded me of a time before I was self-conscious, before boys, before hormones, before the kind of insecurity that still innately comes with being a girl.
I recalled that once upon a time I was prepubescent & brave, like they were, dancing & singing like no one was watching. 😉 actually better, dancing & singing because people were watching.
as I got older, as we do, something radically shifted during puberty. I began to say “I’m sorry” rather than “excuse me,” & then, I started to believe I was taking up too much space in the world, which eventually led me straight into an eating disorder. I was far from alone in this, since more than 1/2 teen girls report being dissatisfied with their bodies & 6% will have a diagnosable eating disorder in their lifetime. &, as with the stats for sexual abuse, these are under-reported.
so many teenage girls (& grown women) begin to believe they can’t be too large, too confident or too loud…so we diminish ourselves in every way to fit in. we become more worried about being laughed at or left out than we were as six-year-olds on the first day of school! &, as adult women, many of us are still apologizing & sublimating our power.
how then, can we help keep confident, opinionated, interested children from becoming fragile, scared, sad & self-effacing adults?
one program that fights to keep our girls loud & proud is The Girls Leadership Institute, founded in 2008 by author, educator & coach Rachel Simmons. with locations in Massachusetts, California, New York, New Jersey & Colorado, the Girls Leadership Institute summer programs are like sleepaway camp with a purpose: to teach young women the strength-building skills they need to thrive. some key points the girls learn on the way to becoming FFF’s (Fierce Fabulous Females): looking people in the eye, confidently asking for what you want, dealing with bullying & resolving conflict courses through hands-on activities like rope courses, art, music, creative writing & movie making.
check out this New York Times article to read more about how this program has helped middle & high school girls uncover their potential.
it almost (ehhhh, but not quite) makes me wish I were 14 again, because I would totally have benefitted from a program like this. maybe they should have a “young at heart” session where professional women, stay-at-home moms, really any fantastic females who need a confidence boost can spend a week bonding over campfire stories, making crafts, playing cooperative games, eating gooey s’mores & other pre-diet comfort foods that used to be a pure joy to share with friends.
sign me up!
if going to “grownup camp” isn’t an option, 🙂 the fact is we ALL have potential mentors in our lives who can help us challenge & transform ourselves. for me, my ballroom dance teacher is an amazing mentor. my business has also pushed me well past my comfort zone, & when I started my company, suki skincare, in my kitchen, I never realized that I was signing up to be not only a skincare formulator, but a leader as well.
I’ve been so lucky to have so many mentors, guardians, guides, whatever you want to call them…but I also had to be open to seeing them, &, I had to say “I don’t know” all the time, reaching out for help & expertise for everything!
as hard as we might find it to believe, we ALL have the potential to be mentors, too. it’s easy to doubt ourselves, but how many of us would voice those insecurities to any twelve-year-old girl who came to us for advice about starting a business, learning to dance, or anything they were curious about? we’d find the best & wisest words within ourselves to guide them.
in becoming role models for a younger generation, we have the chance to go back & correct some of the deep-rooted insecurities & sadness from when we were younger & struggling.
so go for it! sign up to be a peer mentor with a program like Big Brother Big Sisters. take your niece or best friend’s daughter to a roller derby or watch a classic movie with a great heroine (Anne of Green Gables, Mulan & Harriet the Spy are great choices for any age). you don’t have to be a saint, a super-mom, an award-winning athlete, or anything other than your authentic self to be a mentor—you just need to be yourself, with the knowledge of all you have to offer. what a great gift to give any young woman (or man for that matter😉)!