By Patricia O’Gorman, PhD,
author of: The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (HCI, 2013)
and coming in 2014
Out Your Girls Thoughts and Embrace Your Strength workbook
Our children learn from us by the ways we act, what we eat, even how we dress. How many of us have found our daughters trying on our clothes or walking in our high heels? Using our make-up? Spraying on our perfume? How many of us have worked with our sons in the kitchen? Or noticed them picking up our facial expressions? So is it such a surprise that they would try on our language?
The Power of Our Words
They notice not only the language we use when we speak to them, but also the language we use to describe ourselves to our friends, our families, and even strangers we interact with. They notice how we mumble about wishing we hadn’t done something or how we would be “better” if we were different in some way.
The Impact of Our Girly Thoughts
So when we internalize our girly thoughts, those media-driven messages about how we should look and act that result in our feeling less than, those self-judgments come out of our mouths.
They have an impact. Not just on us, but also on our children.
The example we set is just one of the many influences that help to form our children’s opinions and values. Combine those with the impact of media—television, magazines, movies, the Internet, and those video games—and the influences of their friends and their other family members, and it is easy to see why our children feel inadequate and less than, no matter how accomplished they might actually be.
These influences are often so subtle that they are difficult to grab hold of, but they have a huge impact on both our children and us.
But We Now Have A New Tool
We can begin to make ourselves more aware of that negative inner dialogue—our girly thoughts—and challenge the messages.
We have new tool to help us do this, thanks to Pantene. In this new 60-second ad, they show the same actions of young men and women side by side along with the labels commonly used to describe these behaviors—and it is stunning!
The Power of Labels
Men are depicted as persuasive, dedicated, neat, and smooth, while the same behaviors in women are seen as pushy, selfish, vain, or showing off. The double standard is palpable and is depicted so very well in a less than one minute.
Don’t Let Labels Hold Your Children Back—Here’s How:
This video is a great teaching tool, and I suggest you use it now. Show it to your children, or even your grandchildren and ask when they have heard these words used about their friends or themselves.
- Ask how these words make them or their friends feel.
- Ask if these are the best words to describe what they see.
Use these words as teaching tools, and explore them as you watch a show or read a story. Ask you son or daughter if the character is being:
- pushy or persuasive
- dedicated or selfish
- vain or neat
- smooth or a show-off
Then ask them how the character feels about the label.
Give Your Children Permission to Challenge Double Standards
Every time we take a step, make a correction, challenge our own thinking and actions or those of others, our children notice. This informs not only their thinking but also their actions, giving them our unspoken permission to also begin to challenge the double standard as they encounter it in their own lives.
Watch your language when you describe yourself. Don’t feed your children’s developing self-worth with girly thoughts.
Challenge those close to you if they try to slap you with an unkind and inaccurate label. Develop your conscious resilience and model it for your children so they have the tools with which to shape their own positive and healthy self-images.
Think about taking these small steps not only for you, but also for those you love. Not a bad way to end this year as we look to see what is ahead!
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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
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