I’ve been thinking a lot lately about young girls (and boys), how we’re raising them and how we can change our ways to make things better for the next generation to come. I’ve concluded its the little everyday things that help shape the way we see ourselves and those around us.
I stumbled upon this very insightful TED talk by Caroline Paul, she’s an amazing firefighter and paragliding pilot. She’s also an advocate for young girls and in this talk she discusses how it’s the little messages, mostly from good intentions, that shape the mindset. For example how we generally don’t encourage risky play in young girls on the playground. Parents and adults are more likely to caution girls about the dangers of the swing set or rollerblading more so than they would boys of the same age, even though at those ages girls are just as strong (if not stronger) than boys before puberty.
What we don’t realize is that when we focus on the dangers alone, the message that translates to our young girls is that they are not strong or good enough. With enough repetition they believe this and carry it forward going through life fearful and deferent, versus confident and brave.
And how true? When you happen to see a firewoman, a policewoman, a woman MMA fighter, a solo-woman traveller, how often do you find yourself thinking, ‘wow she’s so brave’ versus when you see a man in the same position? There is this inherent assumption by our society that women are weak and timid. The messaging is all around us so we end up passing these misconceptions on to young girls wether we mean to or not.
Here’s Caroline’s talk, quite inspiring…
They say the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing there is one. So that’s what we have to do, be intentional in the way we interact with young girls and also try to model bravery in our choices. Go for that promotion at work, go on that sky-diving trip, say no to a bully, tell a young girl she’s strong and that she can tackle anything. It’ll be good for you and young girls around you, they are watching and learning from you.