As a young girl, you received many messages about who you were and how you should act. Some of these messages may have been very subtle, such as the looks you received when you reached for an extra piece of cake. Those glares told you loud and clear that you were not doing what was correct. You probably paid attention and put it back, just like the good girl you were raised to be.
But you received other messages, too: messages that told to you very directly, with great authority and perhaps even with anger, how offensive your behavior was.
These comments and directions, and the tone of voice with which they were delivered, resulted in you feeling terrible about yourself, and not (at least in the beginning) knowing why.
You concluded that you were the problem because you were acting in a way that was totally not acceptable . . . even if you were not sure of what acceptable was.
As a result, you felt ashamed, and you closed down your spirit because you couldn’t face rejection. This may have proved to be a faithful decision that would affect you not only in childhood but also later in life.
But all you wanted was to be helpful.
What caused you to act in such a totally not acceptable way? You were probably just trying to be helpful! Think back; do any of these describe you?
- You saw someone about to do something that could be a problem, so you told them to stop.
- You saw a better way to do something, so you shared it in a way that young children do, by being very direct.
- You took charge! You said what you thought!
And then you were told you were bossy.
Bossy, yes, and that’s bad if you are a girl. Now, if you’d been a boy, those around you would have said: Look at him, he’s a little general. He’s a leader. He likes to take charge, isn’t that sweet?
Those are all admirable qualities in a little boy, but in a little girl . . . they are not. As a result, instead of your great ideas and clear direction being supported and nurtured, you are rejected and told clearly to STOP.
This is where girly thoughts are born
Our girly thoughts begin with acknowledging the truth in the negative messages that surround us, but we take it one step further: We believe these messages. We internalize them. We monitor ourselves to ensure our acceptability by letting our girly thoughts, our toxic self-talk, guide us. And we shut our powerful selves down. We try not to be offensive in any way. We certainly try not to be bossy.
To remember how this happened to you, watch this sort, powerful video.
What to do? Become aware of your girly thoughts!
- Begin to notice how you treat yourself with less respect than you deserve, or when you speak to yourself in a way you would not speak to a friend—these are your girly thoughts in action, berating you for something because it may not be acceptable.
- Ask yourself: What do my girly thoughts try to keep me from saying? What do they try to keep me from doing?
- Consider what will happen if you ignore these negative, internalized messages. What price do you fear you will pay for not listening to your girly thoughts?
- Support www.banbossy.com, along with Sheryl Sandberg, Condoleezza Rice, Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez, and hundreds of other men and women who want to rid the world of this negative word.
Remember: Girly thoughts are learned behavior. What you learned one way, you can learn another! Take control of your own thinking and get rid of those girly thoughts. Now that is tapping into your personal power!
Patricia A. O'Gorman, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice. She is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse and for her warm, inspiring, and amusing presentations that make complex issues accessible and even fun. She has served as a consultant to organizations across the country in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O'Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions ranging from director of a rape crisis center to clinical director of a child welfare agency, and director of the division of prevention for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She is a veteran of numerous television appearances, including Good Morning America, Today, and AM Sunday and is the author of eight books including: The Girly Thoughts 10 Day Detox Plan (2014), The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (2013), and Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting (2012) 12 Steps to Self-Parenting.