I find it haunting to know that many terminally ill mothers have left their children video diaries of all the important life lessons they want them to know. They do this knowing they will not be around to reinforce these teachings repeatedly or even answer a follow up question. I can’t even begin to put myself in their shoes, but I so completely understand. Speak with your children every day about your values, model empathy, and impart wisdom. Here are some lessons that I strongly believe our tween and teen daughters need to know.
Don’t Be Phony, but DO be authentic. Being phony, or fake, is hiding behind superficial things such as material possessions, trying to be perfect, or saying the right witty thing all the time. Authenticity is about having courage, taking risks in relationships, being emotionally present and wholehearted. To quote Brene Brown, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
Don’t live for others, but DO create your own dream. Maybe your parents will be disappointed that you don’t want to go to their alma mater, follow the career path they laid out for you or marry someone they aren’t fond of. Well, it is your life and you must do what is right for you. This does not mean you shouldn’t take advice from those older and wiser than you. It does mean, though, that you need to be aware of when you are making a hard choice versus a stupid choice.
Don’t be around negative people, but DO surround yourself with positive people. Negative people are toxic and will make you miserable. I do not care if this is a friend or even a family member. Create strong boundaries and know when to cut people out of your life who get some kind of sick enjoyment out of being foreboding, gloomy and pessimistic. On the contrary, positive people are a breath of fresh air, look at things though an optimistic lens and are a source of good energy to be around.
Don’t be a “quitter,” but DO know the difference between quitting and giving up on something that just isn’t right for you. So, you quit ballet because you have two left feet, well I have news for you…it was not right for you. But if you are really good at ballet, but quit because it was too hard to do 1,000 plies a week to keep up, then you gave up too easily. Everything takes effort. You could have an IQ of 160 and it would be a waste if you decide not to work hard.
Don’t be “nice” but DO be assertive, firm and confident. Not being nice does not mean being a bitch. It means getting your needs met and not giving into the culture that tells girls that they must please others or acquiesce. According to violence and safety expert, Gavin DeBecker, we must learn that “niceness does not equal goodness.” Niceness is a choice, a way to interact socially. It is not a character trait. There are some men who will initially be “nice” but may only act this way as a means to an end. It takes time to know someone’s true intentions and character. DeBecker advises to explicitly rebuff unwanted advances. By the same token, letting a boyfriend down easy when breaking up can also be dangerous. If you do not want to be in relationship with someone, it must be said one time and explicitly. This is not a negotiation and your actions must match your words. Once you say “no” to someone, there should absolutely be no contact.
Don’t believe there is one soul-mate out there for you, but DO believe that if you make good choices you will find a good partner. My college social studies professor once said to the class, “There is more than one person out there for you; you just aren’t going to meet all of them.” I have never forgotten how this shook my blissful state of denial, but at the same time gave me the reality check and perspective that I needed. It's about your choice in a mate and the work you do in that relationship. After reading Brian Weiss, an authority on "soul" topic, he believes that there are actually “soul families” or several people that are recycled through our many past lives that are there to teach us lessons. He states, “Never worry about meeting soul-mates. Such meetings are a matter of destiny. They will occur.”
Don’t be a victim, but DO create your own destiny. Don’t buy into the fantasy that if only you had a “functional family,” “weren’t abused,””parents didn’t divorce,” “weren’t abandoned,” or fill in the blank, then you would be just “fine.” But, dorecognize that you can tap into your resiliency and create the life you want.