“Do one thing every day that scares you.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
A Brave Girl does what no one else dared. Fear does not hold her back. But what does she fear? What is it, that holds back so many others? Marianne Williamson said it best,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
We live in a tough world. I want my daughter to be prepared for whatever may come. But in that moment, when she looks her biggest challenge in the eyes, what really matters is that she is prepared to face herself.
Unfortunately, today’s helicopter-parenting trend does the opposite. Instead of letting our children be Brave, we are bending over backward to make their world as safe and comfortable as possible. Lisa can’t reach? She whines a little and Dad quickly gets it for her. Jamie is uncomfortable in the shopping cart? Mommy buys a special pillow. I just saw an ad for a snack container that snaps to the shopping cart. I guess holding something has become too much work.
We want our daughters to “grab the bull by the horns.” But we make sure the saddle is soft enough, and
the ground is cushioned enough we add a seatbelt so she can’t fall… and we train the bull to just stand there. Yay! And now she gets a medal for sitting on a fake bull. And an instagram picture with a hashtag.
Where there is no challenge, there is no reason to be Brave.
She can be anything she wants to be!
President? Doctor? Superhero? Yes, she can! If that’s what she chooses…
But the truth is that becoming a doctor or president takes years of very hard work. And what’s more, it takes the ability to fail repeatedly, then get back up and try again.
If your daughter doesn’t believe that she is capable, she won’t try. If she thinks failing makes her a bad person, she won’t take risks. If she is not familiar with being uncomfortable, she won’t be able to take the pressure. It doesn’t matter what challenge she faces… If she isn’t brave enough to face herself, she will always take the easy road.
But the easy road doesn’t lead to “being anything you want to be.”
But can she be OK with who she is today?
We fill her calendar with extracurriculars. Languages, music, sports, STEM camps… anything that promises skills for her toolkit to succeed in a competitive world.
All these extra classes are great. My daughter is learning all kinds of things in and out of school, and she loves it! But all these classes won’t teach her how to face the world inside her.
Grades, certificates, and trophies all represent success. Great job! But they all praise the outcome. They don’t tell her that it is OK to fall ten times if she wants to learn to balance. They don’t teach her that even if she doesn’t win, she will be ok because there is a lesson in every failure. These prizes just celebrate that she arrived.
I’m not encouraging participation-trophies. I don’t care for those at all. But how about effort-trophies? Facing your fears and taking risks? Trying again, even when success is not guaranteed? Not taking it personally when you fail, because it doesn’t make YOU a failure? How about trying again, working hard. Or being OK on the inside when things are not OK around you… These lessons don’t give out medals. Maybe because you never actually master them completely.
When you focus on achieving results instead of encouraging the process, the whole thing feels like you are pushing and pulling. It’s exhausting! You hope to reach happiness (and rest) once you make it to the end… but you never really arrive. Because you are so focused on who you need to be, but you aren’t learning to be OK with who you already are.
Most days of our lives you don’t arrive anywhere. Being ok with a constant state of imperfection; that takes courage. Being the best imperfect version of yourself every day is a goal you can live out every day. When you find acceptance, this is exciting because you don’t have to be perfect. It’s an adventure. You can even mess up in the process!
Being Brave doesn’t just happen. It’s something you DO, daily.
Teach your daughter that success comes with hard work. Success takes time. It doesn’t exist without failure. Overnight sensations don’t last. The good stuff is not cheap. Goals that look impossible, just require a lot of work.
Too many of us aren’t letting our daughters do the work they need to do. We do it for them. We want to spare our child the struggles we had to endure. We want to prevent them from going through anything that we didn’t like going through ourselves. And then, we over-parent. We step in and create the safest, most comfortable environment possible. Only the best for my princess!
We can do better. Allow her to be uncomfortable when she needs to. Let her be bored sometimes. Instead of avoiding negative feelings, allow her to figure them out. When she struggles, don’t just remove the obstacle. Don’t just lower the bar.
Show her that you believe in her, even when she doesn’t believe in herself. Support her as she connects with her struggle. Focusing on the good is awesome. But the negative doesn’t go away just because you shifted focus.
Allow her to make the wrong decision. Let her learn from her mistakes. Help her feel comfortable in the process, even when the process is messy, instead of thinking she has to achieve perfection.
And throughout it all, let her know that you are right there with her. To support her, not to do the work for her. She can do this on her own. She can be Brave Like a Girl.
I hope that through this series you are now able to help your daughter:
- Become in touch with her fears, so that she can be courageous (Part 1)
- Use her feelings as a guide, so they won’t control her (Part 2)
- Know that she has what it takes. She is capable! (Part 3)
- Be OK with her short comings. Know that failure is inevitable – and necessary! (Part 4)
- Make good decisions, and take responsible risks (Part 5)
Being Brave is not about being fearless, or succeeding at everything, or being perfect. A Brave Girl knows she has strengths AND short comings. And she is Brave enough to face both.
Because the battle of a Brave Girl is not between her and the world… it’s within her.
Parenting is an act of bravery. You can do this!
Parenting is hard! I can’t say that enough. The responsibility of raising a human is heavy on your shoulders. So I hope you can take each topic of the series and apply it to yourself as well. Allow yourself to fear. Listen to your instincts. You have what it takes. Failure is part of life, so you don’t need to be perfect. And you get to make decisions. Some will be right; some will be wrong. That’s OK.
Nobody else has it all figured out, even when they act that way. Just call their BS and keep moving.
I am grateful for all my daughter teaches me. I am not fearless, and I’m not perfect. At times, I’m scared sh*tless. So I take a deep breath, and I try to be Brave… yeah, you guessed it… Like a Girl!