I am confused. All through my cancer journey, people would come up to me and boldly state, “Fight like a girl!” I was inundated with images of pink boxing gloves with the same logo.
Yet, in my life outside that world, being a “girl” means anything but being strong, brave or powerful. I see it in every age demographic from my friend’s daughter being told she throws “like a girl”, to my daughter’s friend in her 20s apologizing to everyone for being “’emo’ [emotional] like a girl”.
A recent Dove commercial (view it here) brilliantly demonstrates how the word “girl” has a derogatory connotation. In the ad, people asked to throw, run, or hit like a “girl” act uncoordinated and weak while performing tasks. However, when 12 year-old girls were asked the same questions, they ran strong, hit hard and threw far. Give them a few years and statistically and sadly that confidence and strength of being a “girl” will morph into the negative.
Ladies, let’s make this the year we find our inner 12-year-old and show the world that being a girl—or a woman—is downright amazing and even enviable.
Here’s my advice on how:
1. Live boldly and without fear
Please take advice from a woman who graduated as a non-drinking, non-smoking, virgin athlete who ended up with Her2 positive breast cancer. Get beyond your fear, seek knowledge, take risks, have adventures, use the linen napkins, light the scented candles and have the glass of wine. You never know what is going to happen in life.
2. Let your light shine
It takes a smart woman to play stupid. It’s hard to believe my highly educated grandmother said this to me as a child and I fight its message constantly. I will not “dumb it down”. Marianne Williamson once wrote, “Playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
3. Do not be afraid to take advice
Everyone has their strengths. If yours is not finance, home repairs or even hooking up an outboard motor, ask for help. However, have faith in your capabilities before asking for assistance. I recently received a cordless power drill/screwdriver and have plans to light up the world, well my dock at least, with solar lights. I will also finally have the courage to deal with the outboard motor at the cabin. I will no longer bribe Mr. Troutman with a dinner and a bushel of rhubarb just so he can sit on the dock, eat a sandwich and drink a Molson while verbally walking me through something for which I am totally capable of doing myself.
4. Plow through adversity
I still am amazed at the blessings that came with the “Big C”. Going through tremendous obstacles and surviving is empowering. You don’t have to battle something horrific to feel strong and brave. I can’t tell you how tough I felt after getting the courage to go to my Canadian cabin—sans water and heat—last winter. Once you have tinkled outside in -7 degrees, you feel as though you can conquer the world.
5. Want a man in your life instead of needing one
When you think about it, all Cinderella really wanted was a nice dress and a night off. The prince was a bonus. Be whole. Be fulfilled in your own life. Want a man to share your life with—if he happens to have good hair and a nice horse all the better— but do not expect to be rescued.
6. Listen to words from the wise
Marianne Williamson wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Pooh also reminds us that, “You are braver than you believe, stronger that you seem and smarter than you know.” Finally, The Good Witch Glinda reminds Dorothy, “You’ve always had the power my dear. You’ve had it all along.”
To all you ladies, in the year ahead, embrace your light, shine and BE A GIRL.
Mary Helen Darah is an award-winning columnist who has appeared in numerous publications in the Toledo area and beyond. Her column, The Mother of Mayhem, publishes on ProMedica HealthConnect the first of each month.