Girls and Freedom

For nearly a decade I’ve been writing about the role of purpose in boys’ lives, but what about girls? Are they as lost as so many young men seem to be? What are the key differences  with respect to living a satisfying and meaningful life? My sense is that the main issue for girls and young women is to be less encumbered by the tropes and expectations put upon them. Girls have to struggle not only with their self-appraisal, but with constantly wondering how they are seen (and judged) by others. There is little psychological freedom in this sort of life, and I think our job is to help free girls from this kind of paralyzing anxiety. Certainly this must begin with frank conversation, emphasizing doing, more than “performing.” So much of girlhood seems focused on performance for others. This is a major distraction from the idea of doing significant things. My approach always begins with a tone of authenticity and seriousness. All of us want to be asked who we are, apart from the all assumptions made by others. Putting that question on the table is a major turning point in relating to young people. It is the beginning of a conversation that unfolds over time. You should return to the topic often. We should help girls differentiate between an authentic self and a “perfect” self. We’ll never win the day with a few school posters, or an occasional self-esteem assembly. We need real conversations about how to live now and in the future. And young people are wondering why it is taking so long for adults to figure out the priorities. Self-knowledge is at, the very least, every bit as important as any STEM subject. Let’s be real.

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