Be who you are. That's what we want for our collective sons and daughters, right? Being rooted in one's own being-ness - rather than defining oneself according to external standards and expectations - is essential for self-esteem and empowerment, for tuning into one's passions and purpose, and for all the things we want for ourselves and for young people.
Here are 15 doable ways to empower girls to Be Who They Are. And as it happens, these apply to all genders.
We all have a role in supporting children and youth. Since my primary personal mission is to empower girls through mentorship and parent education, I'm often speaking to parents of daughters - or more generally, women who are called to girls' mentorship.
But the differences between what girls need and what boys need are limited. What I'm often talking about is what all humans need. And in fact, once we undo the culture's restrictive gender stereotyping, there will be fewer differences - especially as we move past the gender-as-binary model altogether.
So here's a girl-languaged list of positive, doable ways to help everyone Be Who They Are. Some are primarily for parents, but most of them could be offered by any role model.
Many of these call for some inner work on your part, to bring more consciousness and light to a feeling, belief or story that is not in alignment with the message you want to bring. Are you up for that? That's what we're here for, right?
As you read this, notice how you respond in your body. Which of these resonate, which puzzle, which repel?
Art by Tammy Wyatt
15 Ways to Empower Girls to Be Who They Are
- Tell your daughters, "I believe in you" - and mean it. If you find yourself unsure of that inside, work with that, perhaps starting with believing in yourself.
- Teach and model from birth that her body belongs to her. She chooses who gets close to her, who touches, hugs, tickles, or kisses her .. or throws snowballs at her. She will learn to stand up for her body's sovereignty, and to offer that same respect to others.
- Name all the parts of her body including genitalia.
- Teach her that pleasure is her birthright.
- Talk to her about the changes of puberty and sexuality in accurate, relaxed and positive ways.
- Teach her to understand, revere and respect menstruation.
- Encourage her to listen to her intuition, her inner knowing.
- Encourage girls to explore whatever activities and learning call to them. Consciously set aside genderized limitations or expectations; if they persist, work with that.
- Cultivate non-gender-binary, non-heteronormative, non-cis-gender-exclusive language and worldview. Don't let labels, stories or expectations impede you from being curious, respectful and awed by who your child actually is, right now.
- Tune into and respond to her ideas, passions, and skills. Limit your vocal and energetic response to her appearance.
- Limit praise - or more broadly, evaluation - so she develops intrinsic motivation and a connection to her Inner Compass, rather than relying on outside approval for self-esteem and and external expectations for direction.
- Encourage mistakes. Remove shame/judgment from mistakes. Without mistakes, there is no learning. Teach and model that failing magnificently is awesome. If you don't feel the truth of this in your body, work with what you do feel in a tender way.
- Allow her to seek her own answers and solutions. Humans - especially children - are natural explorers and seekers of mastery. Allow that to unfold.
- Teach and model media literacy from an early age. Help her to understand and filter the various sorts of toxic messages in advertising and popular culture.
- Show her how to be assertive - to ask for what she wants, to decline what she does not want, and to express her opinions and feelings.
Photo by Rebecca Droke
To empower girls and all genders, start simple
Don't let a long list intimidate you.
As intentional people, I'm guessing that most of you already bring many of these to the children and youth in your life. Notice that, celebrate that, and keep on!
Of those items that resonate for you, but you don't see as your strong points, pick one or two. Talk about them with your adult allies to help you flesh out why it matters to you, what messages you received as a child and the impact of that, and to reflect on skillful ways to incorporate those pieces of empowerment into your life and the lives of the young people you care about.
Thanks in advance for engaging with this. Truly we rise together!
Without reflection, there is no learning.
Learning doesn't "stick" without reflection. The best reflections include our bodies and emotions, not just our minds.
So pause for a few moments to ask yourself: What's my response? Where was I inspired or discouraged? What was puzzling? Clear as a bell? What would I add, remove or change? What information or support would I love to receive? Which items on the list will I aim to include (more) in my life?
Would you share your reflections? Please leave a comment below or contact me.
Much love and many blessings,
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JOYW Girls' Circle by JOYW artist Karen MacKenzie