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Model Behavior: Making What We Say Match What We Do

Posted Asha Ellison on 2/8/2018 |


Words matter and so do our actions.

I know what it’s like to be ridiculed by other girls. Maybe you do, too? I know how it feels to be the last girl picked for a team, to be called out for being different than others and to have some girls mistreat me simply for being myself. I know this behavior isn’t exclusive to girls but, as a girl, I feel compelled to address my peers.

So, consider your experiences. Have you ever been criticized or talked about? Have you ever found yourself in an uncomfortable situation or felt as if other girls ganged up on you? Maybe you were picked on or labeled as different? Girl-on-girl misconduct happens daily in a variety of ways and it’s time to get ahead of it. 

We must task ourselves to be open-minded about our sisters. We must practice empathy, have respect for, and acknowledge that women have different preferences, styles, worldviews, and experiences that contribute to who we are and how we present ourselves. Just because another girl may look, dress, or think differently than you, it doesn’t mean she is inferior. If you take away another girl’s right to exist as she is, without fear of castigation, then you, too, are surrendering your right to the same protections and freedoms. 

Don’t do that, girl! Let’s uplift and embrace each other.

We should diversify our cliques, crews, and posses. Maybe someday, we’ll do away with divisiveness all together but, until then, we could each benefit from making room to learn about other women and educating ourselves so that we are less likely to be intimidated by differences among women. When we lead with empathy, which is the understanding that we can walk a mile in someone’s shoes without having to forfeit our own experiences or compromise our own values, we naturally learn to grow kinder with each other. From there, we each become a catalyst for positive change.

At Girls on the Run, we teach girls the importance of not being a “stand-byer” when someone is being unkind to another. We also teach them that “words matter” through a variety of strategic lessons focused on fostering acceptance and inclusivity. Through these lessons, girls learn about empathy and how to express it through activities and scenarios such as “See their Star Power,” “Put yourself in their shoes,” and “Respond in a way that shows care.”

We have been unkind to each other for far too long, ladies. The girl bashing and unfriendly behavior must stop.

We may not intentionally act with malice but, if someone takes offense to our behavior, their feelings matter. If you have ever found yourself criticizing, judging, causing another girl to feel discomfort, or standing idly by as one girl mistreats another – you’re a part of the problem.

It’s easy for me to call out other women because I’m guilty of hurting other girls myself. I encourage all of us to hold ourselves accountable. Let’s hold ourselves to higher standards of behavior. 

Some of us use phrases like, “Empowered women, empower women,” but refuse to uplift girls who differ from us. We hold our girls accountable to the core value of standing up for themselves and others while continuing to break the rules ourselves. We talk to our girls about kindness and respect but, somehow, forget those concepts in our personal lives. How can we truly uplift other girls when we’re busy tearing one another down? The answer is clear: we can’t. 

Maybe this message makes you feel uncomfortable. Maybe it makes you feel slightly exposed or rattles your soul. Good! Oftentimes, change comes from admitting we have a problem or have acted unfairly. We grow and get better by challenging ourselves – by working to correct our actions.

Try standing on the other side of girl-bashing for a change. Challenge yourself to spend time with a girl who looks and thinks differently than you. Break away, for a moment, from the group of girls you are familiar with. Invite someone else in. 

If this is overwhelming for you, start small! Maybe go for lunch or out for coffee to open up discussion. You might just find that your similarities far outweigh your apparent differences. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn that it’s ok to uplift girls who are different than you because, in the end, there is space in the world for all of us to exist exactly as we are. 

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