Be Like Misty Copeland – Don’t Dream Girly Thoughts

By Patricia O’Gorman, PhD

Author of The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power (publication date 10.28.14) The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (2013) Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting—The Codependency Connection (2012)

Perhaps the name Misty Copeland is not a familiar to you—yet. It will be very soon. Misty is the latest prima ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre, a cause of celebration in and of itself. But that is only part of the story for this young African American woman.

As the youngest of six children raised by a single mother, Misty is a living, breathing example of not letting those girly thoughts trip you up. Girly thoughts tell you what you can and cannot do, how you should and should not look, and the punishment you can expect if you don’t listen to these implied societal directives. Misty chose to ignore those messages, especially the ones that began with You Can’t.

The fact that Misty didn’t look like your typical ballerina didn’t stop her. Truth be told, she had many things against her:

  • She is only 5’2” when the average height for a ballerina is 5’7”.
  • She isn’t Caucasian, like almost every other prima ballerinas.
  • She didn’t begin dancing until she was thirteen. Most ballerinas begin their arduous training before they even begin school.

But none of this stopped Misty from listening to her body, and her body told her to dance beautifully, gracefully, like a ballerina.

Her Key to Success
What did Misty listen to? She listened to herself, not to the limits she felt from society. Misty listened to her dreams, her senses, the love she had of her body moving in space, for leaping, spinning, and landing with grace and ease. This is what she wanted. This is what she achieved.

Misty’s drive and resilience shine through in this riveting video, which is part of the Under Armour campaign “I Will What I Want”:

What Do You Want?

If you want to give yourself permission to just feel, what is getting in the way of doing what your body say it wants to do?
How do you see your body moving? How does this feel? And if it doesn’t feel good—ask yourself why not.
What is stopping you from giving yourself this gift? Do you think you’d look ridiculous? That you’ll be judged? If so, ask yourself, “By what?”

Say “Get Lost” to Your Girly Thoughts

Tell the part of yourself that has internalized all the do’s and don’ts—the part that is the good girl you were raised to be—to get lost. Tell your girly thoughts you want to dream, and you want to make your dreams come true. Turn on your music and move. You may be surprised how truly easy it is to be you, to trust your body, to feel and follow your senses.

This is the beginning of you trusting you to take care of yourself, of you becoming more resilient.


Recognize Your Everyday Heroism and That of Other Extraordinary Women – Support The Red Suitcase – a film of one ordinary woman’s extraordinary journey into life

By Patricia O’Gorman, PhD,
author of: The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (HCI, 2013)

Order: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

The Red Suitcase Indiegogo Video from Red Suitcase Films on Vimeo.

Everyday Heroism

What does it take to be a hero? To be someone of courage who, despite overwhelming fear, takes a step outside of the known and blazes a new trail in her own life?

Something unusual? Not really. I have found in my own life (and in the lives of the women I know and have treated) that it often takes a crisis that we know on some level will either make us or break us to do what seems to be the impossible—and this is to change. It is these very crises that result in shaping us, creating the person who we are now.

Using a crisis to consciously grow is the first step in my book The Resilient Woman. And that is what this extraordinary film—The Red Suitcase—is about. It asks, “How do I separate myself from the life I’ve lived? How do I move forward from the script I have followed, the one that told me what was expected of me as a woman, as a dutiful wife, as a mother, to see what life can hold for me now?”

The Red Suitcase

The Red Suitcase is a movie that is being developed, and it needs your help. It’s about a 66-year-old woman who, with her grown daughter’s help, has to find the courage to start her life over. The film is based on a true story about the writer’s mother, who suddenly found herself alone and penniless after her husband of 35 years, the writer’s father, walked out of her life. Here is the story of one woman’s conscious development of her resilience as she challenges her girly thoughts that tell her that at her age, her life is over.

Need Your Support

Dana White (the daughter and writer) and her husband, Chris, are using Indiegogo to generate funding. They launched a 60 day campaign on November 13, 2013, and are looking for further support to get the movie made. Here’s the link:

I’m supporting The Red Suitcase because it will resonate with women, empowering us to take care of ourselves. It documents how we can make sense of our personal chaos, using this to garner strength, to develop resilience, and to grow. On a very moving level this is the story of every woman– our mother, our grandmother, our aunt, our friend, and perhaps even ourselves. It reminds me of a basic concept I learned during my teaching days—each one, teach one. The Red Suitcase can do this. Will you help?

Recognize Your Everyday Heroism and That of Other Extraordinary Women . . .Support The Red Suitcase . . . a film of one ordinary woman’s extraordinary journey into life

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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

Warrior Women Give Themselves a Voice – A Lesson We Can All Learn

As women we know that within us is a warrior.  We may joke about being tiger moms but that’s not far from the truth.  And part of our power comes from our being attuned to our own inner opinions, inner voices, if you will.  This has allowed us to know when we feel something is right, or should be right, and when it is not. Translating that into action isn’t always as easy, but with using our strengths individually, and as a group we have accomplished many things such as when our great-grandmothers fought for the vote, and obtained this right.  We have achieved this again in the military by being recognized for what we are already doing, serving in combat.

Here women have been advocating to be recognized for what they have already been doing – serving in combat.   As of 1-24-13 women are able to “officially” serve in the front line, something we’ve been doing, without this being recognized, officially.  And guess what, being able to “officially” be in combat puts women in line for promotions that were previously not open to them. Interestingly this action opens up an additional 7.3 percent of positions in the military for women to advance, as combat experience is a big plus for promotion. Read: the possibility of more equal pay.  Now women will have the same opportunities for advancement as their male peers. As they will be able to list “combat” experience just as their male counterparts are able to do, a key requisite for advancement (2).

But there is more to this “official acknowledgment” than just the career and financial implications, doing this, changes the culture of the military, for the better.  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dempsey, saw the similarities between women and men in the military: we all take the same oath, we all where the same uniform.  And in this one action he also sees the possibility of a reduction in sexual assaults in the military. How does he connect the two?  He understands the implicit message sent to our military personnel when you have one part of the population that is designated as ‘warriors’ and one part that is designated as something else, that disparity begins to establish a psychology that — in some cases — led to that environment. I have to believe the more we treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally. (1)

In this he is utilizing what research has found, that people tend to form impressions of others based upon how respected they are within their group.  So it stands to reason that if you are in a “warrior” group where others (women) are seen as “non-warriors,” then you have set up a situation where there are two classes.  And this was the case in the military where women were seen as “less than” than their male counterparts.

Circumstances in which one group has more importance than other, sets the stage for the group in “higher position” to potentially take advantage of the group in the “lesser” position by asserting their power.  One disgusting way that this played out in the military is through sexual assaults on women, which we know have nothing to do with sex, and are all about power and dominance. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has acknowledged sexual assault is vastly under-counted in official records (2).  But the numbers we do have are mind-boggling; approximately one in three military women have been sexually assaulted, about 33.3%, double the rate of those in civilian life (1), an outrageous number!

What to do?

Women have fought for equal status and we will continue to do so. Yes, when we give ourselves the gift of own power, when we listen and take to heart what our inner voice, the voice of our own personal hard-fought battles, our resilience, tells us, we too can achieve incredible things.   In giving themselves a voice, in pushing for their rights, women in the military are creating a safer environment for themselves to not only do their job, but also to thrive. Now that’s a lesson we can all learn from.   For more inspiration, listen to Alicia Keys’ ode to giving ourselves a voice and relishing in our personal power –

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