A tween or teen girl is deemed successful if she is considered beautiful and popular with many boys eager to date her. She will likely be showered with hundreds of Instagram "Likes" along with sugary sweet complimentary comments from her adoring fans -- so much so that you might believe they were bowing as they clicked to post. In a young girls' mind, meeting this criteria equals success. It's tough to argue this point when a girl's world is mostly consumed by the classroom, BFFs and social media.
I love listening to girls. I mean really listening to their thoughts on the topic of "girl power" and how they interpret this coined phrase amongst women and girls. There is an understanding and great enthusiasm met when we discuss the power of girls finding their passion, embracing their unique qualities, and gaining the courage to try new things. However, it seems that the girls who find that tiny spark of confidence are the ones who separate themselves from the pack and lead the way, oftentimes not realizing this decisive move is considered success.
The definition of success changes depending on our environment and support system. Most teen girls share with me that they define success as being famous and/or rich with a title such as "doctor". There is a huge gap between being a high school student and being a doctor. Girls need to understand that it takes tremendous effort to bridge that gap. Raising your hand in class even if you don't know the answer, improving your grade from a C to a B, and having the courage to say no, are all examples of success. Each time a young women experiences one of these episodes of success, she advances towards womanhood.
Parents oftentimes forget the importance of listening and adding focus to the small successes of their child's day. Instead of focusing on the end result ("Make good grades. Go to college."), girls need to hear the praise for the small success, even though it may seem irrelevant at the time. Parents need to inspire their daughters to dream big and understand that small successes are what will give her the courage and positive mindset to realize her passion and ultimately achieve her goals in life.
Developing values that reflect kindness and compassion, especially in our media-driven society, is considered success. Success for teen girls can be as simple as making a positive choice to stay out of the drama or as significant as saying no to drugs. How it defines us is equally as unique. For teen girls, the journey of reaching a goal often seems impossible at times. Success is learning from your mistakes and being brave enough to try again. Empowering girls to celebrate their incremental successes gives them the courage to rise above the expectations of society to become a complete and mature woman. Success is a series of small wins. Celebrate them all!