Becoming Herself – A Mother’s Truth
I have a daughter. I have two sons too. But something about having a daughter stirs a greater sense of responsibility within me as her mother. I find myself acutely aware of my role in shaping her vision of women, and herself as one.
I was never all that happy about being a girl. All my friends growing up were boys. I pretty much thought I was one too until I could no longer go to my best friend’s sleepover parties. I’m not sure if that was why, but I developed a resentment towards my feminine self. I didn’t really understand the power of being a female. I thought the things that made me strong were my more masculine qualities. And by default, my femininity was my weakness. I would play tackle football in the playground, get in fist fights with the boys on the way home from school and say nasty things to avoid showing my emotions.
The few feminine qualities I did work on, once I became an adolescent, were mostly superficial. My appearance was all I thought mattered as far as anyone else was concerned. My physical qualities were what I believed defined me as a woman to the outside world. And all the messages received on tv, in advertisements and in school seemed to confirm that belief.
I could beat myself up thinking about what I could have done had I not been so unsure of myself in those earlier years. Not that I believe boys don’t go through times of insecurity, but as a girl it’s just different. I feel safe in assuming my high school counselor didn’t try to dissuade any of his male students from taking too many science classes because the course load would be “too rigorous”.
Maybe the fact that he ended that sentence with “for a girl” gave it away. He didn’t say it condescendingly. He was being sincere.
I would like to believe it is different now. But it was only 4 years ago that a friend’s daughter, after not getting accepted to Boston College, was told by her counselor that maybe she should consider going to Wellesley College. My friend’s daughter, who was a devoted student with a clear career plan, asked if they had a good program in what she had planned on studying. The counselor responded, “No but Wellesley girls date Harvard boys.” Shockingly, the counselor was a woman. And sadly, I don’t doubt she thought she was offering good advice.
Thankfully in my adulthood I found a respect for my feminine self. I discovered my sacredness in being a female. I began to own who I am. Maybe it was experiencing my body’s ability to act as a portal to this world, maybe it was choosing self-respect over a steady check when I felt devalued at work, or maybe it was the birth of a girl of my own.
Somewhere down my road, I shed all those long held, damaging beliefs I bought into as a teenager. Somewhere I learned to love my whole self.
And now I must raise my daughter to understand her own sacredness and worth in a way that the opinion of others can’t touch. My sons need to understand their power too and the power of empowering those around them. But my daughter needs to be aware of false messages that tell her she is less. I need to be sure that she understands that those who imply she is weak because of her gender are revealing their own weakness and insecurities, not hers.
Like the boys, I need her to understand her power is not diminished but instead strengthened when she uplifts those around her. I want her to find strength in compassion and grace.
And I want her to hold her ground fiercely when it comes to her Truth.
It is important to me that she never feels like she needs to prove her worth to anyone. It is important to me that she has an unshakeable love of herself. And the sooner she recognizes her power, the better. It is important to me that my baby girl has got her own. And that she understands how very much she’s got.
How do you empower the young women in your life? What devaluing messages do you hope to erase in our culture and what messages would you replace them with? If there was only one thing you could say to a girl who has bought into the idea that she is less, what would it be?