I have had the awesome privilege of visiting other schools lately and being a part of their leadership and running programs. Not only have I met some incredibly enthusiastic and encouraging women, I have also been able to witness the same phenomenon I see every week at my own practices – girls supporting each other unconditionally.
Recently I was reading the forward to the book Understanding Girls with AD/HD, and the very first paragraph struck me deeply. The author was talking about a conference that she had attended that was stressing the importance of women being able to come together to support one another about a specific cause.
“The first of these gatherings was a talk given at Eastern Michigan University by Carol Gilligan, Ph.D., in which she explained her concept of the “resonance chamber,” the space created by women speaking together and giving voice to their own experiences. This pioneering psychologist and author of the groundbreaking book, In a Different Voice, explained that when women and girls come together to speak the truth of their own experiences, they create a chamber where women’s voices amplify and validate one another. Instead of hearing their truths come back to them in distorted ways, as is common in the general culture, they begin to hear their own truths in a clear, strong way. Instead of remaining silent and pretending “not to know what they know” about themselves, their own voices grow more confident, forever changing them personally, as well as affecting the larger political system in which they live.”
Reading this sent chills down my spine thinking about this generation of girls – my daughters’ futures and how important it is to give them a strong support system within their own communities. It isn’t enough to just tell them “you can do anything you put your mind to” because the general culture continues to bombard them with negative messages about self-esteem, self-worth and abilities. You have to show them what kind of life you want them to lead. You have to be the example even when we don’t feel like we have made all the right choices. It is our job as grown women, to be their advocates and learn from our own mistakes.
Girls are suffocating everyday trying to protect themselves from girl drama, unhealthy competition and bullying. And yet, at each of my practices, as well as the practices that I have recently been able to visit, these girls are being empowered. We are creating opportunities for them to see a better way of life and how to build better relationships. They are sharing their hopes and fears with one another and realizing that all of their peers are just as scared and unsure as they are each day. They are developing personal perspectives that are successful, strong and will endure anything. These will be the women that create future change. They will be our future leaders and role models.
A coach at a site I visited made this statement, ” If all 77 of you taught just one friend about what we learned today, then there would be 154 girls out there being positive role models and making good choices. And if those 77 new girls reached out to one friend there would be 231 positive role models. Can’t you see how much we can impact our school?”
Let’s be honest, too, it doesn’t get any easier when we become adult women. The general culture gives us mixed messages as well. Depending on which group you listen to we should either all be stay-at-home-moms who home school or working moms who help support the family. There is no right or wrong answer here – there is still just a need to encourage women to do what is right for their own families and personal growth. I foolishly am amazed by how intimate conversations become between women even if they hardly know each other. On Valentine’s day this year, I went to dinner with two other soccer moms that I only knew as acquaintances. We enjoyed cheering our kids on at the side-lines, but before that night we had never really talked or spent time together. And yet, by the end of the evening I felt like I had two new best friends. We had talked about our kids, marriage, relationships, abuses that we had endured and successes we had experienced. We had created a “resonance chamber” and left dinner a little stronger, a little more encouraged and definitely a little more understood.
The best way I know how to be more emotionally secure and have a positive self-image is to serve in my community. It is next to impossible to dwell on our own short-comings when we are living a life that is bigger than ourselves. When we put our focus on the needs of others and create a better future for someone else, we can’t help but get excited about our own life. We become better goal setters and we start seeing those goals come to fruition. We learn to lead by example. Another amazing reward about volunteering is connecting with other volunteers. Every coach I have met this year planted another seed of excitement and encouragement in my own life’s journey.
I strongly urge you to find a network of women that will encourage you to be bolder and bigger than you ever dreamed and then I challenge you to volunteer and serve others to build stronger communities and create women leaders.
Here are some great places to start: