“They were not amazing exceptional children,” I told my husband. They were just normal kids, being kids. They were good-natured, calm yet excited at play, yet grounded: innocent, confident and free.
“Isn’t that exceptional?” he replied.
Isn’t that the point and what we really aim for, for our children? Yes, he is right. In both ways he is correct, in that to be natural is both exceptional and amazing. I started to ponder the current trend in Girl Power and how to push to be amazing and exceptional can sometimes squeeze out the importance of being natural and authentic. And I feel that my daughters, and girls in general NEED to be natural and authentic in order to find their inner (girl) power. Hmmm, so what IS the Girl Power trend doing for our daughters.
We aim for our children to be exceptionally typical kids. We strive to allow our girls to be themselves. While this sounds as if it should be a given, it is in reality something that requires a lot of focus and mindfulness. Let's start by taking away the stigma of the word, normal. Normal is actually defined as conforming to the standard or common type: usual: not abnormal: regular: natural (dictionary.com). So, let’s not reduce it solely to conforming to a standard. Instead let's Include the aspect of normalcy mirroring nature. Secondly, let's not reduce exceptional to one limited definition that one would have to conform and fit into a box to achieve.
In terms of being girl power, normal is good. Girl Power is really a promotion of that (power) which a girl naturally possesses, when it is not otherwise dulled or extinguished. It is a movement to not conform to pre-established standards for women.
It is a movement designed to NOT conform to others, or play it safe and dim your light for the sake of avoiding backlash. It is a vehement refusal to be shut down, either by peers or systematic flaws.
If you really stop to think about what you want for your daughter, it will always boil down to this: You want good kids. Not just kids who behave well, kids who are inherently good people. We want them to feel good about themselves and the world around them. We want them to possess confidence and self-esteem and relate to others through kindness and empathy. We want them to feel free to be and cultivate themselves, their truly powerful, naturally authentic selves.
There is a Girl Power trend happening right now. I have to be honest, part of me cringes at some of what is offered in the name of Girl Power. However, I completely love the movement to empower women and young girls. Historically and presently it is as much needed as welcomed. But it is not rebellion for the sake of the rebel, it is rebellion for the sake of the feminine. ONLY because that feminine, that powerful place and that authentic gift has been held back.
ALL girls are powerful. Let’s make and keep it clear. So, what Girl Power message do I want my daughters to hear?
This one; Normal girls are powerful girls. Quiet girls are powerful girls. Plain girls are powerful girls. Creative girls are powerful girls. Nice girls are powerful girls. Bosses are bosses. There is not really a thing as a GIRL boss and being on a team is JUST as important as being the boss. Girl Power is not about being the B-word, hurting others to get to the top, acting rude and callous, or being sparkly, loud, or flashy. Girl Power is not pink or gold or neon. Listen, if you are a girl who loves pink, gold and neon, sparkles and glitter than by all means, enjoy it. Just know that if you are a girl who prefers orange, muddy, cargo, libraries, baseball and science experiments that is cool too. This is about being you. Which mean being anything. Because we are all unique. You are a powerful girl no matter what. The power part means finding that piece of you that is your unique gift to bring to the world, holding on so tight to it, being so STRONG and BRAVE and dedicated to it that THAT POWER shall not be weakened. Just be clear on what it means to be a girl and that girl power literally has historically been limited. This is not about being super fit, it is about making sure every super girl fits in to her own splendid uniqueness. This is not about being extremely well off, it is about making sure every girl has the freedom to achieve extreme well-being. It is about being clear and committed to promoting every girl and every part of yourself that is ready to shine from the inside out.
It is not about breaking yourself to fit into a mold, but breaking through the molds to just be yourself.
Girl Power is about finding that girl inside and owning your own name. It certainly is not designer names, limited definitions and catchy slogans. It is about being kind and graceful and making a difference in the world. It is about feeling good and powerful INSIDE of yourself. Because this is not easy, and this was not always possible, and even today this possibility only grows in the notion of more and more girls embracing their own power. Own your power, girls. That’s the message here.
The goal is such so that our daughters can shine and live authentically. It is about gaining strength instead of feeling they are not “enough” and becoming vulnerable to things like drug use, abuse, or living within the sting of apathy or isolation. It is about eliminating antiquated structures, policies, and glass ceilings holding them back.
So, let’s celebrate Girl Power for our girls, let’s just be clear on what it is! I want my children to be happy. And to be happy doesn’t mean to avoid pain or fit into a box. To be happy means to navigate from a place within themselves to be able to conquer anything; to discover inner power and external opportunities to serve themselves and the world around them for good.
Looking for a How-to?
I find three key attributes harness the power I strive for my girls to cultivate: self-esteem, connection to nature, and empathy.
Help her build up her Self Esteem
Low self-esteem is that voice that tells your daughter “I can’t do it,” every time her interest is piqued or her skills are challenged. It is something that could cause her to give up before she even tries, robbing her of the actual confidence building that occurs when accomplishing a challenge. This is a dangerous loop. Girls need to foundationally know they are good, accepted, loved, and whole no matter what they accomplish, how they look, or who does or does not give them approval. These are foundational steps to eventually feeling empowered.
Low self-esteem is a thinking disorder in which an individual views him/herself as inadequate, unlovable, and/or incompetent. Once formed, this negative view permeates every thought, producing faulty assumptions and ongoing self-defeating behavior. 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating. This compares to 25 percent of girls with high self-esteem. (https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-teens-and-self-esteem)
The more we expose our daughters to environments where her leaders and peers speak of and react to her individuality and strengths, the more she can develop those within herself.
Give her time in Nature
Nature is the world stripped of society, expectations, and structure. Because of this, it’s the ultimate playground for a child to be and discover herself. Take your children out in nature and allow them the space to discover new things around them. There are few places where materialism, marketing and feedback is limited. Simply allow girls to discover themselves when all else is silent. There are few places where children can touch, feel real things, and tangibly navigate their own inner terrain. As my daughter said to me last week, when we were outdoors:
“It’s so much better to touch a real thing and build something we can feel (a fort) than to touch nothing but a screen and to only build things that are not real.”
Bingo! I could not have said it better myself. And that is precisely what natural environments bring out in children; intuitive, intrinsic discoveries and calculations about the world around them.
Teen advocate Debbie Reber explains that when you: "push them outside their comfort zone, they realize that no matter the outcome, they survived and have the strength to face any challenge" ( https://www.forbes.com/sites/samanthaettus/2012/10/11/8-essential-steps-to-raising-confident-girls/#53276df84eac ). So, introduce her to tree climbing, bug collecting, and camping – even if you prefer being indoors.
We are in a danger zone when it comes to empathy these days. Some people feel empathy is not a skill children can learn, that the concept is too large to grasp and that children are naturally self-centered. Self-interest can easily be confused with self-centered. We want girls to value themselves, but not at the sake of others. Children may not directly understand the actual definition of empathy on a deep level. However, to strip a girl from the awareness of others’ experiences is precarious. This can create the unfavorable type of girl power (with a lower case): the kind where girls act “better than” and entitled, all about her own sparkle without the link to how that sparkle lends itself to the greater good or those around her.
Children today are already more isolated and less connected due to high use of technology, parents working longer hours and commuting farther, and the decrease of neighborhoods where children of all types and ages spontaneously intermingle and navigate things like rainy days and healthy competition. Smaller villages and closer neighborhoods provided sights, smells, sounds and rules of various households and taken in as a part of the natural fabric of childrens lives.
Because of this change, empathy must be consciously taught. Self-empowerment is limited without the component of empathy. Empowerment and confidence will then serve society from a girl’s natural strengths.
"I have come to believe that empathy, more than any other human faculty, is the key to loving relationships and the antidote to the loneliness, fear, anxiety, and despair that affect the lives of so many people." - Arthur Ciaramicoli, The Power of Empathy. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-zesty-self/200908/raise-self-esteem-the-lifeblood-empathy-0)
Olivia Treubig ©