Last week, I had the opportunity to teach a beautiful group of 32 12 – 15 year old girls at NAIT’s G-Force Summer Camp. The camp focuses on personal empowerment and I love the opportunity to not only teach hoop dance, but to use the hoop as a metaphor for teaching important life lessons.
This is my third year back at the camp and I’m always astounded at the girls’ wisdom. I started the workshop by asking each girl to share her name and one characteristic of a strong woman. Their answers were amazing and they even addressed some of my ideas of a what a strong woman is. To them strong women are empathetic, intelligent, they follow their dreams, they know what they want, they are stubborn! (I think she meant someone who sets her boundaries and doesn’t give into peer pressure), they don’t care what anyone else thinks about them, they have high self esteem, they are loving, they are compassionate, they are beautiful on the inside, they are brave and they ask for help when they need it. They listed more characteristincs, but these are the only ones I can recall. It truly fills my heart with joy to see that there are so many aware and awake young woman growing up in the world today. I’d like to think that I would have given an answer like theirs when I younger, but I truly don’t know how I would have answered. Today though, I do have some solid thoughts about what a strong woman is. Below are the characteristics of strong women we touched on in the workshop.
A strong woman only focuses on the three things she can control in her life – her thoughts, her feelings and her actions. A strong woman does not spend time worrying about what other people think about her or about what other people are doing. She chooses to create her reality, she explores her feelings, she chooses to be aware of her thoughts and will consciously choose to change them if there is any judgement of self or others. I asked the girls to pay attention to their thoughts during the workshop. To notice if any self judgement creeped in if there was a trick they weren’t picking up as quickly as some of the other girls. I invited them to shift their thoughts from self judgement to self love, instead of saying something like “I’m stupid and I can’t do this”, I invited them to shift to “I can do this and I just haven’t figured it out yet”. Our thoughts are so powerful and we need to choose them wisely. It is only when we are aware of the thoughts in the first place that we can choose to change them. When we accept where we are, we can redirect that misused energy to become more productive. We’ll likely figure out a trick faster when we’re not judging ourselves for not getting it right away.
A strong woman is brave. She goes after what she wants, even if takes a lot of time or if she has to stand up against what others want her to do or be. She walks her path and allows herself to be seen, even if it feels uncomfortable, she is committed to living her truth. She follows her heart. I shared with the girls that when you see a woman like this, you will likely be attracted to her because she is confident. As a teen, I wanted to conform but also wanted so badly to express myself at the same time. I encouraged the girls to be brave in the workshop and use the hoop as a tool to express themselves and the emotions they’re feeling. I encouraged them to find a healthy way to express their emotions in their regular life, because emotions are completely normal and they just want to be acknowledged and felt, not to be pushed away or ignored. I encouraged them to find something that makes them as happy as hooping makes me and use that as a tool for self expression.
A strong woman asks for support. She recognizes when she is struggling and asks for help. In my experience, this is a tough one for so many people, something I’m only starting to really explore myself. I think we often feel like unless we know exactly what we need, we can’t ask for help. The truth is if we knew what we needed, we’d probably try to help ourselves. If we just allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and access the vast support networks we likely have, we’d be doing ourselves such a service. I think there can be a stigma around asking for help and I believe that needs to change. I asked the girls to not be shy to ask for help in this workshop if they needed it. I hope that this gave them the opportunity to practice asking for help in a small way so they could feel more comfortable asking for help when they needed it in bigger ways, like when they were feeling depressed, isolated or heartbroken sometime in the future. Many of the girls did ask and I can only hope this reinforces that it is not a weakness to seek support.
There are so many characteristics of strong women that I could write and teach about it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few. I love being able to start the dialogue about this topic so the girls can begin to explore and appreciate all the ways to be a strong woman. I think they are already well on their way.