How to Build Strong Young Women (Part I)

How to Build Strong Young Women (Part I)

This is Part I of a series. It has become the topic of a lot of conversations among my peer groups, colleagues, and the families and adolescents I treat. What do young women need to launch into the world? What is essential for them to stand firm in their communities? I will cover each of these in more detail in articles to come.  


                                                        Connectedness to One Another:

            A young woman needs to feel a sense of community in her peers, a sense of belonging.  It is important for her to experience herself in a supportive environment of other young women who are learning to navigate the world so that she can find sameness when she needs it (and a sense of difference when she needs it, too), solidarity, comfort, and strength. This home group of her peers will help the young woman learn both how she does and does not want to move through her relationships.

As she works through conflict and adversity, these peers will teach her various ways to communicate which the young woman will carry into other relationships.  It is here that she has the chance to begin to gain a confidence and experience the effectiveness (and perceived ineffectiveness) of her power in a way that only her group can provide her. If she experiences support amongst her members, this group has the chance to be one of the safest places for the young woman to express her fears, hopes, frustrations, and disappointments that she experiences as she navigates young womanhood.  If she suffers a lack of support amongst her members, the young woman might begin to develop a belief that it is safer not to share these parts of her experience.  It is possible for her to start to isolate, experience herself as powerless, and the risk for her to develop unhealthy behaviors as coping mechanisms begin to increase.


                                                                Sense of Authentic Self:

            Here is where this young woman will be able to legitimize her feelings, her experience, her opinions. A strong connection to this place, her authentic self, is what will make it possible for her to a) believe she is capable and b) exercise her capability. This is a place where she will find resource through hardship.

This connection is not just necessary for helping the young woman to realize her aspirations, relationship objectives, what kind of person she wants to be in her world, and how she intends to navigate through all of this. This connection to her authentic self is imperative for her resilience. The relationship with her self is essential for her to know that she will be ok regardless of what happens throughout the course of her life.

The more developed this part of her becomes, the more secure the young woman will feel about the feelings she experiences in response to particular situations. She will not only feel more confident about her opinions, but she will share them more freely with those around her. The young woman will demonstrate fewer behavioral defenses (defenses which serve to distance her from others in a protective way) because she will know that there is a safety within her that is always there.

A lack of connection to an authentic sense of self can encourage a young woman to constantly look to others for validation regarding choices and decisions she considers, causes her to illegitimize her feelings, strengthen a belief that what she has to say or do is not of value. A tenuous alliance with her authentic sense of self will make the obscurity of life increasingly overwhelming. It will be easier for the young woman to believe that she will not be able to withstand the pain she experiences in the world.


                                                            Sense of Inspired Purpose:

            The collective young woman being described throughout this article wants to connect and give something of value. She wants to impact her world. Some of her peers will choose to impact our world by committing their lives to the helping professions, others to business. Some will choose to leave their mark by contributing other humans to the world, and still, others will give themselves to social justice. It is important to highlight the many choices witnessed by the young woman (whether or not she perceives them as available to her, specifically, is related to the strength of her connection to her authentic sense of self).

Considering the pressure we as humans put on each other and ourselves to succeed, what it means to be successful, and the existing social constructs, a young woman faces quite a challenge as she decides how she will spend her time and energy in her world. She is confronted with the responsibility of finding out what inspires her, what gives her the most genuine sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Then she must take another brave step and begin to do it.

It will not be enough for the young woman to simply pick a lucrative career if she is not somehow indubitably inspired and adequately satisfied with the gains returned by her efforts.  To choose a path based on someone else’s wish for her, societal pressure, lack of motivation, and maybe a combination of each of these will eventually leave her with a feeling of emptiness. It is not sustainable- at least not without paying a high price that will involve experiencing a disintegration of a part of her self.

The young woman aspires to influence and inspire by translating what influences and inspires her. She searches for the most impactful way she can accomplish this in a way that speaks to her the loudest, corresponds closely to her values and beliefs and allows her to fully experience her value in her world. She pioneers her path.

The three institutions described here are cardinal aspects of a young woman’s development for which there are no short cuts. Our holistic support of these conditions of her development will encourage a safe and healthy community for her to find her way. She will possess the confidence and strength to help others find their way.  The collective young woman is more resilient in these conditions and carries with her a sense of ok-ness. She passes this on to others, and we find that we all begin to strengthen.


Love and be Loved,


Learn How to Take Control of Your Fear

Learn How to Take Control of Your Fear

If you’ve ever had that uneasy feeling of insecurity creep in while you’re working on a project or sitting in a meeting, you’re not alone. Maybe you’ve had thoughts like, “Do I even know what I’m doing? Am I good enough at this?” or “Everyone else sounds like they know what they’re talking about. They’re going to think I look stupid.” This is an incredibly painful and scary place to be.

You might do all sorts of things to avoid letting people see how insecure you are.  Maybe you keep quiet when you want to share an idea. Perhaps you don’t ask for clarification about something when you know you need it. Maybe keeping quiet isn’t your style and instead, you speak your mind, but not about the relevant issue at hand; you joke or talk in circles about the issue. You might take on a lot more responsibility than you can handle to prove your competence to others (and to yourself). There are a lot of different ways to hide insecurity.

Why is it so compelling to go to these lengths of protection against allowing others to see your self-doubt? Well, when you’re insecure about your ability, your skill, or your worth you’ve usually been comparing yourself to other people, generally in your group or cohort. Chances are, your cohort is important to you (as it is for most of us), and so is their acceptance and opinion. You fear their judgment, appearing one-dimensional, being misunderstood. You begin to feel that losing your membership to this group is a real possibility, that you could be excluded. As a human, you are a social being, driven to connect; you are motivated by relationships so, the threat of losing them is terrifying. You avoid exclusion and isolation from your group at all cost.

But when you’re focused on protecting yourself from pain and rejection, you’re not authentic which means you’re not being seen for who you are. Your group doesn’t get to see the real you and your bonds are not as strong as they might be. You’re trading one type of isolation for another. It can be easy to lose yourself in this and begin to develop more feelings of fear and loneliness.

What can you do? You don’t want to feel like this, but you don’t want them to find out you’re not as good as they think you are. There are many things you can do, but here are just a few. Here is the first recommendation:


-You’re going to have to stop thinking of yourself as, “not as good as they think you are.” That sounds like a substantial change in thought habit and it is, but it’s necessary. We can talk more about it. I’m not saying you don’t ever get to feel insecure again- it’s still an option (if you want it). Start slowly at first. For 10 or 15 minutes a day you will allow yourself to do something that gets you in touch with feeling your talent, worth, and expertise, on your way to becoming even more skilled. You can increase this time as you get the hang of it. This will build your confidence and increase your comfort with thinking more highly of yourself.


-Next, you have to allow yourself to say, “I don’t know.” You have to be able to say it to yourself and others. This will allow you to see that a) the earth doesn’t swallow you up if you don’t know everything and b) you can increase genuine self -confidence without knowing all the answers. I guarantee that you will find a sense of freedom the more you allow yourself to say, “I don’t know.”

-Finally, when someone compliments you or your work, start taking it in. Don’t push it aside. Don’t intellectualize it away until it’s meaningless. Allow yourself to feel positivity in it, however slight. Feel free to ask for specific feedback on the compliment, too, so that you can hold onto concrete examples of what someone appreciated about you or your work.


These are a few things that are helpful in getting the ball rolling away from your “fear of being found out,” toward the satisfaction and peace of living more authentically, enjoying increased self-confidence and more genuine relationships. People get to interact with you, not your defenses.


Love and Be Loved,