By Patricia O’Gorman, PhD,
author of: The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (HCI, 2013)
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What Are Girly Thoughts?
Your daughter is a girl, so isn’t she supposed to be thinking thoughts like a girl? Yes, but not these thoughts. Girly thoughts are the subtle conditioning that begins in girlhood and continues throughout life that results in women feeling less than. These are the thoughts that tell us how we should look and also pressure us with how we should act—well, like a girl, and not just any girl, but a popular girl.
Help Her Own Her Skills
So what’s your role as a mother who may be struggling with her own girly thoughts?
First and foremost, you want to help your daughter build her resilience consciously. Yes, even at a young age, your daughter is mastering a series of negative circumstances in life and is developing skills for dealing with them, skills that form the basis for how she will approach other challenges as she matures.
The trick for her is to own that she knows how to:
- talk to a mean girl
- study for a quiz
- ask for what she wants/needs from you
- handle her younger sibling’s tantrums
- forge her own identity when she’s compared to an older sibling
. . . and the list goes on.
Yes, your daughter already has many skills. The trick is for her to consciously use them, for her conscious use of her skills will allow her skills to become part of her identity.
Consciously Using Her Resilience
The skill set we develop when we deal with difficult circumstances is called our resilience. And while we all have resilience, women often do not consciously walk around thinking of themselves as resilient because for many, this feels unfeminine or even unattractive. This notion that women cannot appear too resilient or too strong begins early.
Tips for Teaching Your Daughter Conscious Resilience
Since you are her greatest teacher, you need to model resilience for her. This means you need to own and consciously use your own resilience in your own life.
So take a moment and think about just what it is that you do. Then find moments to share your insights with her and point out the skills that you use to deal with difficult circumstances. How to do this? Start by saying out loud, “I managed this busy day by deep breathing,” or “I make a list and promising myself a reward when I’ve completed it,” or whatever it is you have done, and then:
- share with her the skills you use throughout the day.
- name the skills that you see her using in her own life.
- point out the silliness of the ads in magazines, on TV, and in the movies that show photoshopped girls doing amazing things that are not real.
- speak to her about her real life heroines (perhaps her grandmother, aunt, teacher, or even a classmate), women she knows who are struggling with a major challenge. Point out the skills they are using.
- make a list of the skills she uses each day, and hang it on the refrigerator or her closet door.
Help her see herself as someone who is learning how to navigate life’s challenges by using her resilience. This is a sure way to help her be less influenced by the media’s peddling of their collective notion of who she should be and help her kick those girly thoughts to the curb.
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Patricia O’Gorman, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Albany, and Saranac Lake, New York, is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse and for her warm, inspiring, and funny presentations that make complex issues accessible and even fun. She has served as a consultant to organizations in preventative and clinical strategic planning including Lifescape Solutions in Delray Beach, Florida. Dr. O’Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions ranging from clinical director of a child welfare agency to interim director of a crime victims organization to director of the division of prevention for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Learn more at http://patriciaogorman.com