Category Archives: Girl Empowerment

On Being the Woman You Want Her to Become

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi

Be the woman you want her to become. During a conversation recently with a friend about girl empowerment I shared what had been bothering me for a while,

“Did you ever notice that we invest so much time in ensuring our daughters pursue their dreams while most of us ignore our own or relegate our truest dreams to the back burner?”

She had noticed the same thing.

“What message does that send our girls and our boys about the importance of our desires and theirs too?”

If you ask any parent (or child), they will confirm that it is what we model in action that sends the most powerful message to young people. Pursuing your dreams wholeheartedly isn’t selfish but is honoring what you are designed to give to the world. It is speaking the truth in action that your life and time deserve the same level of attention and care as each member of your family. What I have also noticed is that as children get older, they express significant pride in their parent’s professional accomplishments and impact on the world.

Take up space in your own life for the world’s sake and to give the girls and boys that are watching permission to do the same.

Reclaim Your Dreams Workbook is available on Amazon.

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Money Matters

“Invest in yourself. It will pay you for the rest of your life.” -Aristotle

Courage and Confidence Challenge #9

Money matters. Think about the messages your daughter receives about money both in the media and at home. Earning it. Investing it. Making lots of it. We know the media does, but consider how you subtly or indirectly tell her that she can depend on others (like a future husband) to take care of her financial needs? Is earning power a factor when she considers her future? Today make sure to frame earning money as a path to freedom, empowerment, and the opportunity to make a broader difference in the world. This isn’t about greed or doesn’t mean giving up on a dream. In fact, the goal is the very opposite! It does mean making choices that assume she is responsible for her financial well-being. If you need more direction, start with education by checking out The Daily Worth and Amanda Steinberg’s accompanying book, Worth It: Your Money, Your Life, Your Terms In addition to helping empower women financially, Amanda is a serial technology entrepreneur and an inspiring role model.

Here’s Why

So many reasons why. For starters, statistically, women are more likely to spend time on budgeting/expenses than investing, more likely to feel anxiety around investing, less likely to ask for raises, less likely to consider financial impact when making career decisions, and less likely to feel confident around making sound investment decisions.

Anecdotally, I can share countless stories of how economic disempowerment plays out at every life phase. There was the mom who suggested her 13 year old daughter consider a “flexible” career path – i.e., let’s set the vocational dream bar low and think about how you might work part-time once you have kids before you even start high school.

And the teenager who thanked me for saying, “making money was a good thing” because she thought it was selfish and felt guilty about considering finances when dreaming about a career path.

Or the messages everywhere telling girls to focus on marrying an ambitious person rather than being the ambitious person.

And finally, I also see how it plays out on the other end of vocational life…women in their 60’s and beyond who feel handcuffed (still) by work that they dislike or don’t know how to step back into the workforce. Let’s empower our daughters to invest in their careers and their financial well-being from the outset. Much more to come on this topic from The Brave Core.

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Neutralize Pretty

Sneak peek at our new weekly email series with unique takes on developing courage and confidence by finding your voice and taking up space. The ideas are based on research and personal experience, designed to help educate and empower the girls in your life and you too!

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I’d also love to hear  your ideas on how you have developed courage and confidence via paula@paulagrieco.com 

Standing with you in courage and love. 

“I imagine a girl sitting in front of a mirror, touching her hair <looking at her reflection> wanting to change things.” -teenage girl when asked what came to mind when she heard body image

Courage and Confidence Challenge #1 – Neutralize Pretty

Take a moment and consider how often you focus your compliments and judgements on physical appearance.

Instead, try this at least once today: Skip the physical appearance commentary. Instead focus your encouragements to your daughter and the girls and women in your life on their intellect, work ethic, strength, and character.  Like how badass she is for sticking with that challenging math problem, her relentlessness on the field, her contagious laugh, how strong she is for walking into school on a tough day, etc. As a rule, this type of encouragement should happen about 10 times as much as praise focused on physical beauty.

Here’s Why

“Imagine a girl sitting in front of a mirror, touching her hair <looking at her reflection> wanting to change things.” -teenage girl when asked what came to mind when she heard body image

For two years, we interviewed over 100 girls and young women primarily from across the United States for the What’s Your Brave project. They varied as much as a population can — by religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, academic success and even ambition and desires for their life. Yet, when the topic of body image came up, there was almost a universal anguish expressed by the weight of feeling valued and judged first and foremost by their physical appearance and more specifically, how closely they lived up to a beauty standard that is literally unattainable.

It’s not in their heads. The research confirms what we know from experience. Girls are inundated with messages about what they are supposed to look like — over 250,000 times before they reach adulthood – when the onslaught continues full force. Research shows conclusively that this environment is having subtle to profound consequences on our girls’ psychological, physical, and emotional well-being. The media and cultural messaging is slowly  expanding the definition of what it means to be beautiful and that’s a good thing.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with telling someone how beautiful they look or how much you love their dress; the problem is that the overwhelming cultural narrative still equates worth with physical appearance.

Let’s remind our girls (and ourselves) that building confidence doesn’t come from a mascara bottle and isn’t based on an arbitrary standard and cultural obsession that is ever-changing and they can’t control.

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Six Important Habits for Empowering Your Daughter

Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world.”  – Harriet Tubman

supergirllife

Originally appeared on sheheroes.org. 

We all want our daughters to be the real-life super girl they were meant to be – confident, believing they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to. For a time, when they are really young this seems to be easy, almost effortless. So much so, that sometimes we secretly wish they weren’t quite so eager to take the world by storm. Have you ever met a toddler that wasn’t self-possessed?

As they grow, though, ensuring our daughter feels empowered takes serious, conscious effort – particularly in a culture where she is bombarded at ever younger ages with the script that what really matters are not her achievements and character, but rather what size skinny jeans she wears. Media messages that most often relegate females to a role of passivity – awaiting rescue – rather than taking action to determine her destiny.

So what do we do? How do parents that are over-the-top crazy about their daughters ensure that they hold onto and develop that natural super-girl within? Over the last few years, I have interviewed countless tweens and teens to get a window into girlhood. And these young women have a lot to teach us about how to raise our daughters. Based on those conversations, research, and my personal experience as a mama to two, here are just a few power habits to get you started:

  1. Focus on intellect and work ethic.  Lisa Bloom, Author of Think, has a magical way of interacting with girls that she meets for the first time. Rather than making a comment about how pretty her dress is, she asks her new friend what she is reading. It’s a good thing, of course, to tell your daughter (or son) that they are beautiful. Just be sure to spend 10x more effort noticing how hard she is working at conquering that math problem.
  2. Regularly solicit her opinion. Create a girl that is confident about her opinion by asking what she thinks on topics from her favorite color to global warming, feminism and world affairs. Respect her opinion, but don’t be afraid to disagree with her so learns to defend her stance. Be sure to ask your daughter why she believes what she does. Try not to correct her on the “tone” that she uses to deliver unsolicited opinions. Girls are given a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle messages that she should be smart, just not TOO opinionated or direct. So it’s important that she knows stating what she believes is a good thing.
  3. Expose her to as many strong female role models as possible. There are countless women who are doing work that they are passionate about and making an impact in the world. Expose your daughter to those you know in real life and those that you can find through film, television, and online. Point these amazing role models out whenever you come across them in your life. This site, www.sheheroes.org is a great place to start!
  4. Develop a media critic.  Never underestimate the influence of negative media messages on a girl’s self-esteem. Reducing what your daughter is exposed to definitely helps. Since you can’t completely avoid the damaging messages though, teach her early on to be a critical observer, questioning the motives of an advertiser or television show. “Huh, I wonder why this movie has the girl waiting to be saved. She must be really bored! They clearly don’t understand what girls like to do.”
  5. Set aside a few minutes daily to consider the bigger stuff of life. It may sound silly to have your elementary school daughter pondering the meaning of life, but it is never too early to start making this life-changing ritual part of your day. It makes setting time aside to be conscious about her life an early habit and also gives the powerful underlying message that she is in charge of her future.
    • Start with just 5 minutes each day or a week even (if five minutes is too long, then go with 1 or 2 minutes). Unless your daughter is an early riser, evenings before bed may be best if she is in school all day.  She can use a special journal or notebook set for only this special time. Younger children may simply use the notebook to draw something magical. As your daughter gets a bit older, you can ask her open ended questions like, “What did you love about today?” And preteen and teen girls are ready for questions about imagining their biggest, boldest dreams. (For a daily guide for this practice, check out Take 5 for Your Dreams.
  6. Teach her to be brave by trying new things. Most of us develop confidence by experiencing mastery of a new skill that we were initially afraid to do or were simply unfamiliar with whether it be rock climbing, a challenging scientific theory, or meeting new friends. Encourage your daughter to step out of her comfort zone sometimes. When she is struggling with a new skill, remind her of the other times she’s learned something new.

Remember your daughter is her own one-of-a-kind super girl. Create an environment where she is reminded of that consistently and she will be compelled to reach for the stars.

For more practical habits to empower your daughter, sign up for our weekly tips on developing courage and confidence in the girls and young women in your life.

The book Take 5 for Your Dreams was created especially for preteen and teen girls and provides more than 90 five-minute daily exercises designed to inspire girls to think about their future, their goals, and how they can get there. Packed with beautiful photos, quotes, mini-essays, and resources, it’s a simple and elegant solution meant to break the idea of dreaming big into easy, doable daily steps. 

 

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Be the Woman You Want Her to Become

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi

shutterstock_33451507Be the woman you want her to become. During a conversation recently with a friend about girl empowerment I shared what had been bothering me for a while,

“Did you ever notice that we invest so much time in ensuring our daughters pursue their dreams while most of us ignore our own or relegate our truest dreams to the back burner?”

She had noticed the same thing.

“What message does that send our girls and our boys about the importance of our desires and theirs too?”

If you ask any parent (or child), they will confirm that it is what we model in action that sends the most powerful message to young people Pursuing your dreams wholeheartedly isn’t selfish but is honoring Life and what you are designed to give to the world. It is speaking the truth in action that your life and time deserve the same level of attention and care as each member of your family.

What I have also noticed is that as children get older, they express significant pride in their parent’s professional accomplishments and impact on the world.

Take up space in your own life for the world’s sake and to give the girls and boys that are watching permission to do the same. 

Join us for FREE practical tips on {re}claiming your dreams for busy women and girls

 

10 Ways to Take Up Space in Your Busy Life

If you don’t choose how you spend your time, someone else will spend it for you. -Author Unknown

Female feet closeup of woman standing at the sandy beach next to the shell heart

I was chatting with a friend recently who shared that she never had time to pursue her art, bemoaning her endless to-do list and all the obligations pulling at her.

I think most of us have experienced her frustration. Life, after all, is busy. Often incredibly so. Daily work, family, volunteering and other commitments can make days and (gulp) years pass quickly, leaving little time for long-dormant personal passions and dreams. This is a familiar mantra for my peers: women with kids/teens still at home and often also running a business or working in a corporate setting. This was different though. My friend’s struggle gave me significant pause because she was in her late 60’s and has been an empty nester for quite some time. Wow…the busyness really never ends, was my immediate response.

What she shared, reminded me (again) how easy it is to be lulled into waiting for the elusive right time to pursue our boldest desires or simply nurture ourselves. And that the truth is that the only perfect life phase for living fully into who we are starts today. If you, like my friend, are feeling squeezed out of your own life, here are some micro-habits to get you started on a path of intentionally taking up space and reclaiming your life:

  1. Express gratitude for one way you take up space today. It doesn’t matter how big or small it seems; identify one way that you express who you are in your life right now.
  2. Make time for brief moments of solitude. Even just a few minutes during the day can help you connect to yourself rather than being caught up in outside forces.
  3. Ask the Big Questions. Begin consciously considering what you want your life to be about, what your passions are, and what you would regret not pursuing. The answers to these questions should drive how you spend your time.
  4. Quit. If you are too busy to pursue what is most meaningful to you (or to take the time to figure out what that is), something has got to go. Evaluate your current optional commitments; begin by cutting out those that drain you.
  5. Create art. Buy a small journal or notebook just for self-expression. It will be one of the best purchases you will ever make. Spend even one minute a day writing or drawing a picture. No directions required.
  6. Make a Rote Response Card. Sometimes we end up compromising who we are because it is hard to say no. Write down on a small card your response to requests for your time or an opinion you are not prepared to give. Doesn’t have to be eloquent—“Huh, I’ll have to think about that and let you know” works.
  7. Initiate juicy, meaningful conversations in unlikely places. Shake things up…be determined to bring big ideas or something you are passionate about into sidelines conversation or while waiting in line at Starbucks. This is life-changing and I guarantee you will feel empowered and see humans differently when you do this regularly.
  8. Re-connect to a childhood passion. Think about what you loved to do as a kid as it can be a clue to your truest expressions.
  9. Express your uniqueness daily. Create a daily practice of doing or saying something that expresses you without regard to its popularity or commonality. It can be an expression of a core value, as simple as a wardrobe choice, or declining a social engagement that will leave you feeling drained.
  10. Make time to do absolutely nothing. Schedule time with no agenda other than to do whatever you want in that moment.

Take 5

Taking up space is meant to be fun and freeing not a burdensome addition to your to-do list. Start by choosing one of the ideas above or try this favorite of mine:

Give yourself room to play. Schedule a date with yourself to do something outside of your normal routine that expresses who you are or simply makes you feel a little giddy. Take photos in the city; Pretend you’re a screenwriter and spend the morning jotting down the characters in your movie; Grab a sketchbook and make a graffiti design; Research an EarthWatch expedition; Go for a run in a strange town…or you name it.  

xo Paula


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Why Hillary is in My Dreams

You can be what you can see. -adapted from Marian Wright-Edelman quote
shutterstock_206126209

I don’t often have vivid dreams, but this one felt so real that it stays with me two weeks later.

In the dream I was attending a business event in a swanky hotel’s  ballroom, similar to ones I have been in many times. I was sitting in one of many rows of chairs set up for a workshop due to begin soon.

As I was waiting for the session to start, I noticed that the hotel staff was busy setting up chairs for a second event on the other side of the ballroom. I knew immediately that Hillary Clinton was coming to speak. I also knew that although my event would be fine (and ordinary and perhaps  flat) that I was called to the other side of the room where the excitement was palpable.

Without hesitation, I moved over to the other side of the room.

(Too typical I know), but I looked down and realized that I still had my pajamas on and immediately bolted home to get dressed.

After being temporarily distracted at home, I hurried back to the event, worried that I was too late, that I had missed the window of opportunity, and then looked down seeing that I was now only half prepared (as I was still wearing my pajama pants!)

But it was too late to return home and finish getting ready.

And with that I ran back to the Hillary event, snagging a front row seat and founded myself surrounded by several other women, ranging in age from twenties to seventies and beyond. As we waited for HRC to take the podium, I huddled close to these other women; our emotions palpable as we shared why we were there. Hillary Clinton did arrive in the end and it was just as spectacular as I imagined.

Politics aside, the symbolism of this dream is almost absurdly personal as I have been struggling with whether or not I should respond to a particular calling.

Do I stay where I am (the fine, but ordinary and flat side of the room)? Or do I take it up a level, where there is excitement, but risk? Can I do this? Am I ready (No. Definitely not, but perhaps, half ready. See pjs). And the most sobering question of all… Is it too late? 

When I awoke, I was inspired and clear-headed. After her defeat in 2008, like many, I assumed that Hillary Clinton’s window of opportunity to become the first female president had closed and now, here we are in 2016, it is once again a possibility as she has just made history as the first woman to be nominated for President of a major political party.

I know how HRC’s historic rise impacts my daughter and son and a generation of girls and boys across the United States who are watching a 240 year barrier lifted. (You can be what you can see.)

But, what moves me just as much, is that I also see the significance for a generation of women and men in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond. Women, who for a variety of societal and personal reasons, started toward a bold dream late or perhaps are ready for a new vision and calling.

No matter your political views, I hope that Hillary’s nomination serves as a powerful reminder, that despite defeat and obstacles and yes, age, that it is not too late to pursue your dream, to answer a bold calling…

That all of us, can do and be whatever we want starting today even if we begin only half ready with our pajama pants on. 

Do it. Take the risk. Began today. I sure plan to.

xo Paula

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When Your Potential Ends

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. -Nido Qubein*

I am conducting research as part of my work on a personal development program for young adults. In one of the books, I am reading (more precisely listening to on Audible) the author provides insight into the environment and characteristics that determine success in school and life. To illustrate the weaknesses of one model, he shares a story about a teen who attended a NYC charter high school. The student, Tony, did quite well academically in the highly-structured environment of the charter school and was accepted to a four-year university.

But when he started college, Tony floundered and after a couple of tries, eventually dropped out for good. Using Tony’s story, the author highlighted what was missing from this particular charter school and advocating for a formula that emphasizes traits like grit rather than a traditional model focused almost exclusively on intellectual/academic success.

During his research, the author interviewed and quotes Tony, now in his late 20’s and working at an AT&T call center. With resignation, Tony sighs,

“I really had a lot of potential.”

…and then not missing a beat the author continues with his growth mindset hypothesis.

And that’s when my next door neighbors may have heard my rant. 

Wait! What do you mean had? Had?

Tony is 28 years old; his dreams and the possibilities for his life are not in the past tense. Given the difficult circumstances of his early years, he has done extraordinarily well. But still he has the potential to do much, much more if he chooses.

Tony doesn’t need to accept his current circumstances as fate because of his college/teenage struggles no matter his history, but particularly keeping in mind that he was likely still recovering from trauma.

How ironic that a text that is focused heavily on the growth mindset (the malleability of intelligence and success) implies that potential has an expiration date?

There are countless famous, historic and everyday examples of people hitting their stride in every decade of life, literally until 100 years old.

Tony’s potential ends when he decides it does. And so doesn’t yours.


Take 5: 

Your potential ends when you decide it does. Take two minutes and consider what you have the potential for (maybe it comes in the form of regret or a tinge of if only) by brainstorming answers to this question:

What would you do today if money, time, or the opinions of others were irrelevant? 

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*source for quote: brainyquotes.com

Courage Over Confidence: Six Ways to Raise a Brave Girl


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“Speak the truth even if your voice shakes”  –Maggie Kuhn

Confidence is overrated. Sure, the “feeling of self-assurance” is great when you have it. But like all feelings, confidence may disappear without the slightest warning. And is usually not around when you need it most – like when you are trying something new or stepping out of your comfort zone.

Brave is different. You can be brave even when your voice is shaking (which doesn’t project confidence at all). Brave doesn’t require you to feel anything in particular. That’s because being brave is about taking right action – even when we are afraid or insecure or tired.

Whether it be standing up for a friend who is being picked on, defending an unpopular opinion, or taking a positive physical risk to step outside of their comfort zone, girls develop a stronger sense of self when they are brave enough to do the right thing or courageous enough to try something new even though they are afraid. Here are five ways to help a girl that you love get her brave on:

  1. Surround her with support. It is hard to be brave alone and the truth is it rarely happens. Whether walking into a classroom again after you have been teased or taking a risk to try-out for an athletic team or a school play, knowing that your people are with you, waiting in the wings or right by your side if possible – and that they love and respect you no matter what the outcome can make all the difference. Rachel, a middle schooler, remembers being able to confront bullies in her math class by making sure her friends walked her to class and  met her right after too.
  2. Take interest in who she is. As if figuring out who you are isn’t tough enough during adolescence, girls are  often encouraged to be nice and agreeable, rather than to think for themselves. But, of all the ways girls defined brave from our interviews, being who they really are on the outside and standing up for others who are being picked on for doing the same, most often comes out on top.
  3. Practice at home. Help your daughter be courageous enough to state her own opinions by asking what she thinks on topics from her favorite color to global warming, feminism and world affairs. Respect her opinion, but don’t be afraid to disagree with her so learns to defend her stance. Be sure to ask your daughter why she believes what she does. Try not to correct her on the “tone” that she uses to deliver unsolicited opinions. Girls are given a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle messages that she should be smart, just not TOO opinionated or direct. So it’s important that she knows stating what she believes is a good thing.
  4. Name courage when you see it. Girls (and humans in general) often believe that you have to feel brave to be brave. The truth is that courage is taking right action even when you feel afraid. So whether it is your daughter being brave, a character in a movie, or you, walk her through what happened. For example, point out how afraid she was before she walked on the field for the try out last time and how courageous it was to do it anyway.
  5. Remind her that courage is not a perfection pursuit. No one is brave all the time. Girls are pretty tough on themselves when they feel like they have missed the mark or not done the right thing. But no one is brave all the time. It is important to honor and be kind to yourself even when you aren’t as courageous as you wanted to be in a particular situation. (And to recognize the you may have just been braver than your thought.) Ellie shared how she regretted not standing up for a friend. An adult recounted the same situation but noting how Ellie always stood quietly by her friend when others teased her or distance themselves from her.
  6. Model being brave by trying new things. Most of us develop courage muscles by experiencing mastery of a new skill that we were initially afraid to do or were simply unfamiliar with whether it be rock climbing, a challenging scientific theory, or meeting new friends. Step out of your own comfort zone and encourage your daughter to do the same. Name your own struggle and how you stuck with it. When she is struggling with a new skill, remind her of the other times she’s learned something new.
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