I spent my evening last night with an amazing woman (and about 500 of her biggest fans!)
Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out and Curse of the Good Girl gave an hour long presentation about taking a compliment, girl bullying, speaking to your true emotions, and taking up space in a world that is constantly asking you back down.
The event was all the more poignant because it took place in my old junior high school! Walking back into those ancient hallways brought instant flashbacks of the horrors of being a girl in middle school. And my middle school wasn’t even all that cliquey. Just as I was beginning to squirm in my chair, eyeing the exits for a way out of my own head, Rachel began her presentation.
Because the auditorium was packed to the gill many of the young women sat down in front on the floor. This seemed to work for Rachel she spent the evening speaking to them very directly. Yes, she looked out at the larger audience as well, but her message was for these girls, the ones who came with a parent, or a friend’s parent, the ones who are navigating the terrors and traps of Girl-World every day.
She opened up about some of her own experiences, the ones that inspired her to finally start asking “Is it just me?” When she realized that her experiences were nearly universal she started writing. Her first book, Odd Girl Out, became a best seller and launched her on a path of educating, empowering and inspiring girls. She founded the Girls Leadership Institute to “awaken girls to the full potential of their authentic selves.”
The absolute best part of the evening came during the Q&A segment. Girls between the ages of 8 and 15 lined up to ask Rachel their questions. Some were about her writing process, some where about their own problems in Girl-World. What was so powerful was watching Rachel focus on each girl and really speak to her.
I think we all came away with a new hero last night. One girl stood in line to ask Rachel what to do about her stage fright. She was scared to speak up in class, scared to speak out in a group, scared because she might make a mistake, or stumble over a word, or forget to breath and pass out. Rachel was great, “But, look at you. You’re doing it. You’re awesome. Everyone, can we give this girl some snaps!?!” It took a lot of courage for that girl to stand up in a room full of strangers knowing that she might pass out in front of her hero, but she did it. Testament to the power of positive motivation.
Rachel has developed a whole bag of tricks for grown ups to use to talk more effectively with girls and to use to support girls when they are crumbling under the pressure to be perfect. She has also developed a whole new language for girls to use to talk about what they are going through and experiencing. Like a friend divorce. We’ve all been there, we’ve all gone through the BFF breakup, but we never had the words to use to say what it really meant. Now we do. And then there is the NJZ, or No Joke Zone, which covers things that you just don’t want to be teased or made fun of about. Everyone has an area of their life that just isn’t funny to them. This is a way to let your friends know so they won’t go there with you.
We were all told yesterday that Rachel’s next parent/daughter weekend will be here in Boulder in January 2010. Registration has started and is limited to the first 30 participants, so if you are interested, click here to learn more and register now! I’d see you there, but my daughters are still too young.
In the meantime I did purchase both of Rachel’s books last night from the roving Boulder Bookstore outside sales rep! (Thank you for being there! – It was so great to get to support my local indie bookstore last night!) I recommend that you all go and check these books out for yourselves. Everyone has at least one girl/woman in their lives. Even if you yourself are not a girl, or are not raising girls, these books will help you understand what we go through, and how you can help us break The Curse of the Good Girl!