Have you ever stopped and thought about everything that you say around your daughter, a younger sister, a girl you are tutoring, or someone who you are babysitting? Chances are … not as much as you would like. Our language can influence those around us positively and negatively, especially those who are young and impressionable. With everything that is going on the past few years, I have came across many common every-day phrases that we need to watch and stop saying to girls. In fact, you might remember from one of my previous posts on how language plays a role when we lead like a woman.
“Monkey See, Monkey Do” is a well-known phenomenon which occurs in our human brains when we mimic actions of those around us. It’s the way our mirror neurons act when our interest is piqued by what someone else is doing. Therefore, starting at a young age, children around us tend to admire those they look up to and copy the way we dress, the things we say, and the actions that we do. They begin their learning with observation and imitation. Then as they continue to grow a little older, they begin to learn what is right and what is wrong in social situations. For example, we learn that we get in trouble when we throw our garbage on the ground, whereas holding a door for someone is a nice gesture that is very much appreciated. It’s the same when it comes to language.
To nurture a strong, confident, and intelligent girl starts with us. As role models, we have to be aware of our interaction seeing as our actions or language will affect how they will perceive the world.
- When we have honest and vulnerable conversations with girls at a young age, we allow them opportunities to learn more about themselves.
- When we encourage their aspirations and ideas, we empower them to be confident and creative.
- When we focus on their gifts, passions, and talents rather than their appearances, we build a stronger foundation with their self-esteem.
Below are six common phrases we need to stop saying to girls as they could be disempowering and detrimental to a girl’s development:
“You look so pretty! Look at me…”
Young girls around us will be influenced to do the same when we express negative self-image opinions of ourselves. We are subconsciously teaching them to focus on their appearances and bodies rather than their talents and gifts. Body shaming is very real and not only does it contribute to the likelihood of eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, but it also can seriously affect someone psychologically in the long run. A Dove study from 2017 shows that “6 out of 10 girls from around the world admit to avoiding at least one everyday activity because of feeling concerned about their looks”. That is absurd!
Body image is closely linked to self-esteem. Bodies don’t all look alike so it’s important to teach girls to lead healthy lifestyles that incorporate eating healthy foods and regular exercising at a young age. Our bodies will change dramatically over the course of our lives due to hormones and age. So, rather than focus all of our time perfecting our appearances or comparing ourselves to other people’s bodies, we should encourage girls to celebrate their individuality and aim to be the best possible versions of themselves.
“He can probably do a better job than I can.”
Let’s face it – we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but that does not mean men are better than women. Not in a million years! When we say something about a task being a “man’s job” or that a man could “do it better”, we are restraining girls to their future dreams, goals, and aspirations. We are teaching them that they capabilities have a limit and that they won’t measure up to a man.
Rather than using a phrase that puts up a divide between the two gender, this is an excellent opportunity to teach girls about the importance of teamwork and helping each other out.
“Oh, it’s nothing.”
Girl, stop downplaying your wins, your victories, and your successes. Own them! Take time to admire yourself and be proud of what you can accomplished. Successes come in all shapes and sizes – it’s important to show our girls to take time out of their schedules and celebrate those wins. Not only will it help build confidence, but it will also teach them gratitude.
Remember, you can be modest and stay humble at the same time!
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too!”
We probably all have heard that at different stages of our lives. Heck, I sometime catch myself thinking or saying that when I know better! When we respond with this phrase, we are telling the young girls in our lives that they can only pick one – whether that be a dream, a goal, or a passion. While it’s good to be decisive and mastery often comes from doing one thing repetitively, girls need to know and understand that goals and passions can also change over time. With a bit of hard work, perseverance, and grit, we can achieve anything and everything we have ever want.
So yes – we can have the cake and eat it too! I fancy chocolate today, how about you?
“Look at ______. You should be more like her.”
This one hits a nerve with me because I was brought up in a very competitive culture where nothing I did seemed to have any weight or value. When we are constantly comparing girls to someone else, we are diminishing their worth and value by the minute. As girls go through puberty, they are already experiencing countless changes to their bodies, which makes them feel confused and insecure. Gifts, talents, hobbies, and passions are some of the things that don’t change – so let’s stop tearing them down? Truth be told, there will always be someone that’s prettier, better, and more talented in this world. It’s inevitable living in a world of 7.53 billion people. Rather than pinning her against someone else, encourage her to be mindful and a better version of herself from the day before. Remind her that her biggest and only competition is herself and nobody else. That’s the true lesson of personal growth.
“That’s not ladylike!”
In my opinion, the word “ladylike” has a negative connotation to it. To be “ladylike” is to be quiet, compliant, and dainty. Girls should not be taught at a young age to stay demure. They should be encouraged to express their ideas and opinions openly and freely in a respectable manner. We should not be using a word that targets a specific gender. While it is important to be polite and respectable, that does not mean girls have to adapt to situations in order to please someone else.
What are some other phrases we should avoid using? Comment below with some of your other suggestions!
Here’s to changing the world, one little girl at a time.
Seeing people succeed while doing what they love fires her up like no other. Aside from being the co-founder of DiscoverHER Project, Jess is a meeting planner by day and a wedding planner by night. Jess is passionate about giving girls and women around the world the same tools she used to get to where she is today. She believes in wearing her heart on her sleeve, doing everything out of a place of love, and empowering people around her to do the same. When she isn’t in front of a screen, she’s most often found eating tacos, wandering around a book store, or off exploring the world.