I got the best call and the worst call from a friend of mine last week. She and I have been friends since high school which means we’ve seen each other at most of our highest and lowest points—from birth of our first child to passing out cold after drinking one too many Bacardi Breezers. This call was to celebrate the fact that she had just landed a job. Not just any job, but a job she hadn’t thought she could get. She had been encouraged by a friend to apply for it and even though she was convinced it would never happen, the company chose her! After years of uncertain employment through the “gig” economy and a series of startup companies she was on the verge of making the most money she had ever made in her life, with the best benefits she’d ever had in her life, with a stable and established company, and an actual (gasp) career path! So that was the best part of the call. The worst was when she admitted that she didn’t feel she deserved it. She confessed that she had been telling herself some pretty awful things about herself from as early as her teen years. Who knew her better than she did, right? Worse yet, who was going to argue with the voice in her head? So after years of the same refrain she believed it.
I wish she were the only woman I know who battles that same bitch of a voice in their head. However, we women seem to be awfully good about letting the record of our lives remain stuck in a groove so that it simply repeats again and again all of the awful things we think about ourselves (and yes I am that old that I just made a reference to vinyl).
In a God-wink moment the very next morning I met another friend at the gym. In between exercising (I swear to God we actually did work out) she told me about an amazing opportunity her eleven-year-old daughter had been offered. Her daughter absolutely loves to dance and does it competitively. One of their dancers at her studio, who was in high school, was injured in an accident and wouldn’t be able to compete, leaving her other teammates down one dancer for an upcoming competition. The coach reached out to my friend and asked her if she would allow her daughter to fill in. Though her daughter was younger than the other dancers, the coach felt she was strong enough to hold her own. My friend jumped at the opportunity even knowing that her daughter might not be so thrilled. And sure enough her daughter, who is shy by nature, protested that she’d never be able to do it. To which my friend sprang into super pitch woman mode and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She told her all the things we wish our inner vices told us: I believe in you, your coach believes in you, you can do this. Most importantly her daughter believed her enough to say yes.
Now look, this isn’t about blaming your mom for you not being successful because she didn’t hug you enough. What I do think we need to be aware of is that what we tell ourselves and believe about ourselves has power. Wouldn’t it be amazing if all of our daughters, nieces, friend’s daughters, random girls walking down the street were told that they were capable and strong? What kind of world would it be twenty-years from now if every girl-child was told they should go for it? That they have what it takes. That reaching for the seemingly impossible is something they should do every day. Maybe their nasty inner voice wouldn’t even have a chance to be heard.
But even more important than our words are our actions. My friend with the new job is now going to demonstrate to her young daughter that women should value themselves. Our children do not do what we tell them to do (I’ve given up on this quite some time ago), they do what they see us do. They model us. And not just children but young women coming into the workforce and trying to find their own balance. They look to us who have been at it for a few years to see how we handle it. And if they see us leaning in they might begin to believe that they can do it too.
So the next time you hear the little voice whispering discouraging words in your ear, slap her. Do it for you and all the other women who are watching.