On 8 March every year, we celebrate the women who have made an impact on our lives. This International Women’s Day, we’re dishing out some advice to young girls so that they too, will grow up to be impactful women of their generation.
Hidden in every women is the young girl she once was. Often, it’s the dreams she had as a girl that have propelled her to greater heights. However, we know too well the struggle of being a woman in a male-dominated society. The challenges and struggles are much more than any of us could’ve imagined. Hence this International Women’s Day, we’re offering these 12 nuggets of advice to young girls. We hope to empower them with insight and information that’ll help them reach greater success. We want them to know their dreams are valid, and that no one should be allowed to tell them otherwise. Agree?
1. You don’t have to be strong all the time
Women are often described as being “emotional” or “angry” because they are not afraid to show their feelings. And that’s not wrong. Being in touch with your emotions is a wonderful thing. No one should be strong all the time. It’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to feel anger when needed. Embrace your emotions, and use them to your advantage. The more in touch you are with yourself and how you feel, the more you’ll be able to dive into your passions and make a difference.
2. But, it’s okay to have strong boundaries and be firm too
Ah, the first irony women often face in the workplace is a conundrum. First, we’re told to be less emotional – to be more firm in our actions and waver less. But what happens when we actually do that? We’re described as “angry”, “bitchy”, or yet again – “emotional”. Just because a woman is strong, decisive, and firm doesn’t mean she is any of those things. She’s simply sure of herself and her role. Remember that while it’s perfectly okay to be in touch with your emotions and to feel them, it’s also okay to be firm too. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’ve to “relax a little” – especially when it’s something non-negotiable to you. If people respect you, they’ll respect your boundaries. And if they don’t, it’s time to reconsider their position in your life.
3. Get to know and love your body
From a young age, girls are often taught how to find flaws with their body. With celebrities plastered on billboards and across magazine covers, to the constant reminder from society to look good, it’s a lot to take in. To young girls, I say this – your body is yours. No one else should decide what your body looks like. It is yours to own, yours to love, and yours to define. If you’re perfectly satisfied with your body, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. More importantly, get to know your body! See how flexible you are or how fast you can run. Your body is more than just for show, it’s something that you nourish every day so that it’ll work for you. Exercise is a great way to get to know and love your body, and you should do something that you love that keeps you fit, too.
4. Pursue what excites you, even if it’s unconventional
We often see the world in stereotypes. From the day we’re born, girls are assigned the colour pink and boys are assigned the colour blue. Girls are given dolls to play with, while boys are given cars and trucks. Even though we’re slowly shifting away from gender norms, as a society, they’re still prevalent. Similarly, when it comes to hobbies and interests, there are certain things society considers “for the boys” and some “for the girls”. This is untrue. Just because it’s pursued mostly by one gender, doesn’t mean that someone of the opposite gender can’t participate in it too. Pursue what excites you, even if it’s unconventional. Do you like to skateboard? Try it! Prefer playing football as opposed to ballet? That’s okay too. And even if you do like activities that most girls enjoy, that’s perfectly all right. Make sure you’re doing what interests and excites you, and not just because it’s an expectation.
5. You are your own Best Friend
Through life, we make many friends and we lose some along the way. As sad as that is to here, it’s simply a fact of life. We grow up, and grow apart, from many people. We also meet people along our journey that are a better fit for our personality and life. However, at the end of the day, you are your own best friend. No matter how close you are to someone, they’re not going to be there for you 24/7. There are times when you’ll find yourself down and alone, and that’s when you need to realise that the only person you’re stuck with forever, is you. Learn to embrace yourself! Spending alone time with yourself is so important, yet so few people do it. Learn to be comfortable just sitting with yourself, going shopping alone, and eating alone. It’s a skill that’s so important but one so few embrace. There’s nothing wrong with being alone sometimes, and often, it’s when you’ll feel the most at ease and gain the most clarity.
6. Learn forever
As we grow up, it’s easy to think that we know everything there is to know. We’ve passed all the examinations and completed all the assignments. Is there really anything that you don’t already know? Yes, there’s plenty. Learning is a lifelong process, and one you should be excited about. And when we’re talking about learning, it isn’t just the textbooks you’ve poured over in school. Learning is so much more than that. Find a topic you’re interested in and dive in! Learn the ins and outs about your hobby, or a particular sport you fancy. Knowledge is power, and it’s something you can never have enough of.
7. Don’t keep apologising
Women are often too apologetic. We’re in touch with our feelings, and when someone else gets hurt, we’re the first to step up to the proverbial plate and apologise. Truthfully, that often shows the maturity and kindness of women. However, when we start apologising for everything and anything – others start taking us less seriously. They’ll begin to push the blame to us, knowing that we’ll simply accept it and apologise. Be wary what you apologise for. Is it something that you’ve done wrong, or simply a stand you made that someone couldn’t accept? Don’t apologise for the latter. It’s crucial to have strong boundaries and be firm (see above) about what you feel strongly about, and no one should make you feel at fault for having those boundaries. Instead, reaffirm your boundaries and double down. You shouldn’t have to offer up an explanation or an apology for something you believe is right.
8. Food is not evil
As we learn to love your bodies, it’s also important to develop a healthy relationship with food. Food isn’t the devil, it’s what nourishes us and provides us with energy to tackle the day. Don’t let anyone shame you into not eating – realise that it’s something they have to deal with, not you. Offer support to anyone who’s struggling with food, for it’s a tough road and they’ll need all the love they can get. But don’t let it rub off on you. Eat well, and eat a variety of foods. Learn to choose the healthy option, but also indulge every once in a while. As long as you’re within a healthy range, the number on the scale doesn’t define you.
9. Love is great, but don’t lose yourself in the process
Feelings are great (and often, scary) things. You’ll fall in love one day, and many times, in fact. It’ll feel exhilarating, and nothing like you’ve ever felt before. It’s perfectly okay to embrace those feelings, to cherish them. However, it’s important not to lose yourself in the process. Often, young girls throw themselves head-first into a relationship (been there, done that). When everything’s smooth-sailing, that’s great! But not all relationships last, or are meant to. Some people come into our lives for a period of time, to serve as a lesson for us. When the romance ends, remember that you’re still there for yourself. Don’t change yourself to suit someone else’s needs. Stay you for you.
10. Comparison is the thief of joy
This is a little nugget of wisdom from the elders. When you look inward, and are grateful for what you have, that’s where joy lies. But if you choose to compare, and focus on things you don’t yet have, you’re going to end up feeling miserable and envious of everyone else. Life is much more joyful when you focus on what you do have, and are grateful for it. Gratitude is so important in life. Remind yourself each day to be grateful for what you’ve been given, the comfortable life you’ve been lucky enough to have. Be grateful also for the people around you, those who love and support you, and those who make you smile. Envy is something none of us can avoid, but we can definitely take steps so that we won’t dwell on it. And the best way is simply by focusing on what we do have – and be grateful for it.
11. Feminist is not a dirty word
In the media today, feminists and feminism have been painted as villainous, revenge-seeking women. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Being a Feminist is simply recognising the inequality between how men and women are treated in society, and wanting equality for it. It doesn’t mean we hate men, or belittle them. In fact, both genders should support each other for the good of society. Embrace the fact that you’re a woman, and embrace being a Feminist. It’s a brave thing to fight for your rights, and the rights of other women. It’s only by standing together in a strong voice that we’ll be able to push for change.
12. Empowered women, empower women
If there’s only one thing you take away from this, let it be “women don’t tear other women down”. It’s sad to admit, but society encourages so much competition among women from an early age. We start to see one another as threats instead of compatriots. “Is she prettier than you? Skinnier than you? Or maybe applying for the same job? She’s the enemy.” This isn’t true. We shouldn’t aim to tear other women down. Instead, we should see them as making inroads to a male-dominated world, just as we are striving to do. Women should constantly support each other, to encourage each other to do better. Your female friends aren’t your enemies, and it’s possible to be happy for one another’s achievements, too. Don’t let society tell you otherwise.
Own Your Truth as a Woman
Being a woman is a wonderful thing, I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, it’s the truth that navigating society as a woman is difficult, and often confusing. Hopefully, with these 12 little nuggets of wisdom, every girl out there will have a better chance of succeeding in her life. On International Women’s Day, what could be more important than empowering the next generation of women to reach greater heights? Remember – there’s nothing you can’t do, and your dreams are valid. Go get them!