I was recently asked in an interview what I had wanted to be when I was younger. I laughed to myself as the answers came to me: a WNBA basketball player, an NBA basketball player, and a tornado chaser. I was amused at the obscurity and then applauded the boldness of younger me. I love that when I was little, logic didn’t stop me from dreaming. A professional basketball player? Good luck, tiny tot with mediocre ball handling skills. A tornado chaser? Helen Hunt’s character in Twister is not real life, Sam. I love that younger me was ready to defy odds and break barriers. I love that younger me was ready to fearlessly and recklessly go after those dreams. I cringe at the fact that older me doesn’t have that same confidence. I hate that older me sometimes approaches dreams with hesitancy and “what ifs”.
At what point, I thought, did that dissipate? At what point did my height (or lack thereof) make me shove that dream aside? At what point did the idea of becoming a tornado chaser make me laugh more than inspire me to push myself to do things I never thought I could do? At what point did I tell myself “I can’t”?
The more and more that I spend time with young girls and speaking into the lives of women, the more I realize that as girls get older, they don’t default to self-confidence, it has to be taught and exemplified. Unfortunately, the default I see more often than not is that of self-doubt and self-loathing and because of that, the design that we as women set for the next generation and for each other needs to be that of intentionality and conscious confidence. When you are told or begin telling yourself from a young age that you can’t do something, that only perpetuates a mindset of insecurity into adulthood. When girls watch women bemoan the imperfections of their bodies day in and day out, they are learning that beauty is unattainable. When young girls hear women tear each other down, they not only think that it’s okay for them to do that to themselves, but that it’s also okay to treat another human being with disrespect and hatred. When they see women passively accept the world telling them that their voice doesn’t matter as much as that of a man’s, they are less likely to speak up…first in the classroom and then in the boardroom later on in life. Girls will imitate what we demonstrate. We have to show girls to love who they uniquely are by embracing our own flaws and celebrating the accomplishments of one another. We have to show them that another woman’s success not only doesn’t infringe upon theirs, but that there is so much to learn from their victories. We have to show them how to be strong and confident by being strong and confident women ourselves. They aren’t going to learn it through the covers of magazines and it sure as hell won’t be instilled in them through social media. It’s on us. Be the woman not only that you want to proudly be, but also be the woman you want your little girl to someday grow into. I want to be surrounded by women ready to chase tornados and play with the boys on the courts of the NBA. I want to be surrounded by women who are unapologetically and relentlessly chasing after their dreams. How beautifully dangerous of a world would that be?