Timing is everything. On International Women’s Day this year, I found myself helping my teenage daughter study for a history exam on civil rights, and the women’s suffrage movement. This led to a great conversation about women, rights, values, and of course, her right to stand up for what she believes in.
“Don’t ever let someone, something, or a circumstance rob you of your sense of self-worth, happiness, or value,” I said, just like I said many, many times before. Right now, “You are loved” is written on her bathroom mirror in lipstick—nice and bold as a daily reminder of her value. It may sound simple, but our girls need to be reminded of their value, contributions, strength, and just how much they are loved—outside of social media.
They need real, tangible conversations—real mother-daughter, aunt-niece, or family friend-teenager conversations. They need to know there’s an ‘open door’ to talk without judgement, when they have something difficult on their heart, a question, or a concern. They need to know we ‘have their back’ in life, and won’t take to social media to berate them, embarrass them, or their circumstances, perhaps as others might. They need to hear the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt, when she said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
How many times have you ever been told, “I’ve got your back,” but that really wasn’t the case? We’ve all experienced this, but we need to do a better job of setting this example. Our girls need to know that their opinion and beliefs have value, and it’s okay if these don’t match up with what so many others think they should be.
It’s okay if they did or didn’t attend the Women’s March, it’s okay if they don’t believe in swearing and posting a thousand selfies or sexy pictures of themselves on social media, or don’t do social media at all. It’s okay if they haven’t had a seemingly ‘perfect life.’ It’s okay if their ‘baggage’ is really a travel trunk—all of these are part of the recipe that makes up who they are.
There are oodles of strong women to look up to who have broken glass ceilings, and had their own varying difficult circumstances to bear—Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, Princess Diana, Eleanor Roosevelt, and more recently Razia Jan, Malala Yousafzia, Hillary Clinton, and Kellyanne Conway. These women haven’t stood for precisely the same things, but what they do have in unison is this: Women have value and can overcome adversity. Our girls can, too.
Our girls can continue to change and add value to our world. We need to encourage them as such. Encourage them not to give someone else a remote control to their life—manipulating and muting their voice, their feelings, their truth. Our girls, our young women, matter.