Have you ever been asked to share three words that described you? Maybe in a job interview or as a get to know you game? For me, I generally go with compassionate, intuitive and stubborn. While the first two are welcome with open arms, the third often meets resistance. This is where I take the opportunity to shine. I have been called stubborn all of my life – a trait that my family says has been passed down on both sides. While stubborn at age 6 looked like taking the shockingly effective approach of refusing to put on a bathing suit to avoid swimming lessons, as I grew up, being stubborn manifested into standing up for myself and holding strong to my values. This stubbornness has acted as my true north, influencing how I act, who I surround myself with and what opportunities I pursue, often in spite of outside forces.
My wish for our GOTR girls is that they can harness their own stubbornness and stand up for themselves in all areas of life. Standing up for yourself means so many things. It means being confident in exploring and sharing your identity. It means standing up to the pressures of society to look and act a certain way. With friends and peers it may mean standing up to a bully, using “I feel…when you…” statements to express their emotions, or encouraging friends to try something new that you enjoy. In school it may mean speaking up in class when you are discussing a topic you are passionate about or advocating for yourself with a teacher and inquiring about a grade on an assignment. At home and in your community, it may mean setting physical and emotional boundaries with other individuals or asking to go to a camp or event that you are interested in exploring. The possibilities are endless.
As caregivers and coaches, there is a lot we can do to support our girls standing up for themselves. The most important thing we can do is provide love and support. This creates a safe and supportive environment for our young people to explore and find opportunities to matter. Examples of this can range from reading stories that have a courageous character, encouraging your young person to write a letter to the editor on a topic that matters to them, or talking through the difficult experience of standing up to a friend or classmate. Our girls also learn through observation. Often, we feel inspired to stand up for ourselves when we see others doing the same.
I encourage you to find your own stubbornness – share with your girl a time when you had to stand up to a good friend, stay true to your convictions at work even if it meant taking a risk or allow yourself to be vulnerable and share your true passion with others.
I recently read the book, “The Crossroads of Should and Must,” which focuses on finding and following your passions – your “musts.” While much of the book was very inner focused, author Elle Luna ends with this: “While a redwood tree can grow 360 feet tall, the roots are only, on average, about ten feet deep. This is because they spread their roots outward, searching for other redwood trees. Their roots intertwine under the ground, and they hold each other up. A redwood tree cannot stand on its own, and neither can we. The source of Must connects us all.” While I joke about my stubbornness and how it has made me the individual that I am, in reality, I have been able to follow my passions and stand up for what I believe in because of those around me supporting me every step of the way. So my original wish is really three-fold: support your GOTR girls in standing up for themselves, be confident and model standing up for yourself and take time to thank those around you that have allowed you to stand tall.