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I watched a TED talk about Raising Brave Women and raising our girls with courage recently that got me thinking. I really enjoyed the talk and even saved it to watch again later.
There was something that bothered me about it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and it just kept rolling around in my head.
Why was it bothering me?
Raising Brave Women: The Real Reason Girls Need Courage
I mean, it had all of the elements I should enjoy…
After several hours of letting it settle it hit me.
The speaker was a young woman talking about how we need to raise fearless girls who become brave women. That girls are much more concerned with perfection than boys are and when presented with a challenge are more likely to give up (as well as internalize the imperfection: “what’s wrong with me”).
Her conclusion was that this is the reason that women are so underrepresented in STEM, high-level corporate leadership, elected officials, etc..
I realized that her conclusion that we need to start encouraging our girls to take more risks so that they can enter these professions is what ultimately bothered me about her talk.
Yes, we should be raising girls who aren’t afraid to make mistakes, have curious minds, and meet challenges head on.
But not because this will help them climb the corporate ladder or get a STEM job.
Is that really the best we can do? Is that the ultimate reason to teach girls courage?
The highest pinnacle of parenting girls is that they get a good job and smash the “glass ceiling”?
Girls need to be brave because life demands courage.
Courage to choose the life they want.
Courage to let go of what no longer serves them or doesn’t lead them to their goals – whatever they are.
Ultimately, the courage to be unapologetically themselves.
And — the courage to be happy, even if they take a different path from high achievement.
Is raising girls to be brave women really about a job?
If we tell girls to be fearless so they can get a job and climb the ladder, we aren’t really telling them to be fearless, are we?
We’re telling them to be courageous but only as long as it fits within the box we build for them. We limit them to what we view as “success”.
Instead, let’s show them that courage is its own reward.
There’s nothing so satisfying as living the life you’ve chosen for yourself.
Being a person who knows their worth whether that’s in a salary negotiation, board room, friendship, romantic relationship, motherhood, or wherever their dreams take them.
All of it takes courage.
We need to help our girls understand that perfection is an illusion. Just like the glossy magazine covers and ads on TV.
Life is messy. It’s never going to be “perfect”.
Life demands strength, courage, and a willingness to learn from our own mistakes as well as others.
THAT is the reason to help our girls take risks and be comfortable with imperfection.
Instead of telling girls to keep aiming and striving for higher and higher “achievements”, maybe it’s time we start telling them to have the courage to look into their own hearts and be honest with themselves and others.
What do THEY want?
Who do THEY want to be?
What will make them happy and fulfilled as people? Even if that doesn’t include achievements that the world acknowledges as important.
Those are the real questions and the real reason to have courage. These are the questions we should ask ourselves as we work to raise our girls to become brave women who are courageous in all parts of their life.
Because courage is what makes life beautiful and exciting…not just our ability to climb a corporate ladder.