Girls on the Run has a campaign running right now called #Letstellher. The idea behind this campaign is to start telling girls about their power to change the world and their limitless potential.
And for each public #Letstellher post on social media, SayItForward will donate $1 to Girls on the Run.
I was really excited about this campaign, but I couldn’t pick just one message. And after listening to a Women At Work (WAW) podcast interview with journalist and “Good Girl Stripped Bare” author Tracey Spicer, I realized that there are so many things I want to tell young girls and women. (I also want to read this book. It seems like something I need to do.)
So, why not put them all together here.
Here we go.
#Letstellher to celebrate her wins
The research shows that when men and women go in for performance reviews and have to fill out self-evaluations, men overestimate their productivity and the benefits they bring to a company and the women vastly underestimate their contributions (Haynes & Heilman, 2013; Mayo, 2016).
The research also shows that women are less willing than men to apply for a job unless they meet 100% of the qualifications listed (Mohr, 2014). (The reasons behind this varies depending on the source, but fear of failure seems to be the likely reason according to a survey reported in Harvard Business Review. Because our failures are remembered longer than men’s? Seriously?)
We have been socialized to downplay our strengths for fear of appearing conceited or making others feel inferior. And we have been socialized to avoid risk and danger.
So we apologize not only for our imperfections, but also for our strengths. We spend our lives apologizing. Qualifying. Downplaying. And standing in the shadows.
It’s time to tell her to shout her achievements to the world. Stop undervaluing herself. Stop downplaying her successes. Stop qualifying her results and start owning her greatness.
#Letstellher to play hard
Let her play hard and get hurt and embrace dirt and mud and scratches and blood. Let’s stop telling her to be careful when we’re letting our boys run wild. Research suggests that we encourage risk taking in boys and we perceive girls as more vulnerable to injury (Morrongiello & Dawber, 1999). Encourage her to take risks, too. I mean, don’t just let her do stupid things. Be a parent. Like, keep her from running into burning buildings or out in front of cars. But stop telling her to be careful on the field or out on the trails. Let her be wild.
#Letstellher to stop apologizing for who she is
For her strong will. For her messy hair. For her clumsiness and brilliance and her tears and her anger.
Because it is all of those things that make her magical. (I don’t have a valid source for this one, but I’m gonna go ahead and claim experiential research. Chicks are magical. I mean, I grew two entire human beings inside of my stomach. Men can’t do that. Psht. And it’s possible I’m a little off on the physiological aspects of child creation, but my stomach is the part that will definitely tell you I’ve grown two entire human beings in there. So…)
#Letstellher to start inventorying everything amazing about her
When we ask young girls and grown women the things they wish they could change about themselves, most are quickly able to recite a laundry list of characteristics they deem to be faults. Ask them what they love about themselves and many will struggle to provide even one thing. I’ve watched a group of strong, funny, intelligent, amazing middle school girls labor over an exercise requiring them to name two positive things about themselves.
So, tell her to start keeping a journal of things she’s done right and the amazing things about herself. Start inventorying everything that makes her amazing rather than keeping an inventory of all of her faults.
And in so doing, she will shift her own views of herself. Because she has the power to do that. Remember, she’s magical. (See previous claim of experiential research.)
#Letstellher to celebrate her friends’ successes
Encourage her to stop comparing and competing and start celebrating and supporting one another. (I mean, she should totally compete. Compete on the field. Compete in the classroom. Compete in the workplace. Compete for achievement and greatness. But she should stop viewing other girls/women as her competition. These are her soul sisters. She should embrace them.)
Research suggests that boys celebrate each others’ successes and girls celebrate each others’ kindness. And I mean, kudos on the kindness thing because I like that about people. But really, shouldn’t everyone just be kind?
So, tell her to expect the kindness, but to celebrate her friends’ successes. Their achievements. Their strengths. Their goals.
#Letstellher to be that girl
Be that girl that calls out injustice. That girl that lifts up others. That girl that asks the hard questions. That girl that challenges the status quo. That girl that recruits the other women around her to raise expectations and set the bar higher and to demand better.
#Letstellher that bravery is not the absence of fear
Tell her that being brave means experiencing the fear and doing it anyway. Not backing down from a challenge. Not shying away from her goals just because it’s scary, just because she might fail. She probably will. And that’s good.
Tell her to look her fears in the eye and walk straight into them. (Or take a running jump into them … if her fears happen to be found in 47 degree lake water.)
This is where the really awesome people live and she’s gonna wanna know those people. She’s gonna wanna make those people her people. She IS one of those people.
#Letstellher to take on failure
Tell her that failure is the route to success. Seek out failure. Embrace failure because that is where the experience lies. That is where the learning lies. That is where success lies.
#Letstellher to just be her
Haynes, M. C. & Heilman, M. E. (2013). Women’s attributional rationalization of their contribution to successful joint work outcomes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(7), 956-969. doi: 10.1177/0146167213486358.
Mayo, M. (August 31, 2016). The gender gap in feedback and self-perception. The Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/08/the-gender-gap-in-feedback-and-self-perception.
Mohr, T. S. (August 25, 2014). Why women don’t apply for jobs unless they’re 100% qualified. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/08/why-women-dont-apply-for-jobs-unless-theyre-100-qualified.
Morrongiello, B. A. & Dawber, T. (1999). Parental influence on toddlers’ injury-risk behaviors: Are sons and daughters socialized differently? Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 20(2), 227-251. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0193-3973(99)00015-5.