If Students in Potsdam Can Learn About Girly Thoughts, Why Not You?

Patricia O’Gorman, PhD


I’m so excited . . . I’ve been invited to speak at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam on April 16.

I’ll be addressing a group of students from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. in the Fireside Lounge of the Barrington Student Union about hitting gender issues head on. I was invited by the SUNY chapter of Student Activists for Gender Equality—SAGE—a national organization devoted to advocacy of women’s and gender issues.

What will I be speaking to them, and maybe to you, about? Girly thoughts—how we as women internalize these messages of how we should look and act. I’ll share the very real truth that women use these messages from outside as a yardstick in assessing our own acceptability, and as a result we increase our stress and deplete our personal resources.

Why Call This Girly Thoughts?

I’m a psychologist in New York state. I’ve spent a great deal of time figuring out what is in a person’s mind, and I know that naming something is one way to take away its power. That is why I developed the concept of girly thoughts: by giving a name to this thing we do to ourselves, we can externalize it and realize the thoughts are not who we are but what we are thinking . . . and then we can stop thinking them.

Girly Thoughts Are Expensive

Having two thoughts at the same time is difficult and costly. When you are obsessing about your hair, or that nasty post about your rear on Facebook (yes, we do this to each other, not just to ourselves), you are misdirecting your energy—energy that could be spent on achieving your personal goals. Girly thoughts cost you when you’re focused on all the ways you aren’t good enough because you don’t have the energy to focus on being your best self.

Girly Thoughts—The Grand Misdirection

Those of you who watch the news, read spy thrillers, or watch mysteries are familiar with the concept of misdirection. It is intentionally leading you away from this so you won’t discover it. Our girly thoughts function in much the same way. They keep us focused on our hair, our dress, how we speak, and so on through misdirecting us—but from what?

From our power.

Being a Good Little Girl Instead of a Powerful Woman

If women are really 51 percent of our population, then why are women only about 6 percent of our elected officials? Why is there a multibillion-dollar industry focused on dieting and make-up that is all directed at women? Why does the fashion industry work so hard to make us feel we are somehow defective if we are not sporting the latest spring colors? Am I saying this is a conspiracy? No . . . but developing what I’ve named girly thoughts is a natural outcome when we are constantly bombarded by these demeaning messages.

These examples are all part of a grand misdirection to keep you focused on trying to be good little girl, on being acceptable, so you don’t have the focus, energy, or group support to organize what you need to really be successful.

Competing with Other Women

You may be surprised to hear me say women don’t see other women as natural allies. This is true—we are so competitive with other women that we don’t group together and organize to get what we need to be successful. Regardless our personal political views, every woman needs good female reproductive health care, a higher minimum wage, predictable, quality child care . . . You get it!

Girly Thoughts Are a Choice

Why are students concerned? Because this is their life, their world, and they want to be active players in it. They want to make their own decisions; they want to have every opportunity in life and not be limited by the shoulds embodied in their girly thoughts. And if they can explore this, maybe you can as well.

Next stops:

  • Schenectady, NY, The Electric City: April 18, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Book signing at The Open Door Bookstore.
  • Grand Island, NE: April 30: I’ll be giving a workshop on “Trauma” from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and a speech over dinner titled “Girly Thoughts from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • New York City, NY: May 17, 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. “The Big Apple: Leadership and Girly Thoughts.
  • Worchester, MA: June 11, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. “Girly Thoughts and Addiction”
  • Lake Placid, NY: July 11, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Book signing at Bookstore Plus

You’ll find more ideas for getting rid of your negative self-talk in my latest book, The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power