Here's what we should be teaching girls to make them stronger!

Chaitra Anand

International Women’s Day: It’s time to be mindful of the messages that we’re constantly giving young impressionable minds

It’s time to change the narrative. It’s no longer about teaching girls to compete against the boys, or about asking them to measure up to what society expects them to do, nor is it about reining them in when they’re inches away from writing the success stories of their lives. Now is a good time as any to relook at the messages we pass on to young girls as they have long term impact on their mental health growing up.

  • Being alone does not mean you’re lonely

    • Yes, sometimes it’s difficult to stand tall in the face of adversity or to do something, which goes against what is expected. Yes, it means that you might find yourself alone when fighting the battle of acceptance. At times like this, most women feel incapacitated simply because they’re constantly seeking validation. Fear of being left alone makes it extremely difficult for them to take that one step which they strongly believe will change their lives. It leaves them having to feel content with mediocrity.

  • Your happiness is your responsibility

    • Society teaches one to seek happiness in materialistic things and/or from external sources. A new job will make you happy, more money can make you happy, a good match will lead to a happy marriage, a bigger house will highlight your accomplishments more, children will make you happy. The list is endless but unfortunately, happiness is a personal choice. It’s important to create one’s own personal understanding and standards of what makes them smile and feel happy within.

  • You’re enough

    • No matter how much is written or said about equality, girls are still taught that they’re equal to boys or constantly restricted because they’re not boys! That’s conflicting and contradictory. Girls are girls and will always be that. What’s more important is to motivate them to explore their limits and encourage them to reach their ‘own’ potential.

  • Sense of freedom

    • When young, girls are encouraged to speak their minds and be opinionated and yet as they grow up, that freedom is taken away because parents, family, elders, society know best. Having the power to think for oneself is most empowering. While allowing girls to take their own decisions, they should also be allowed to make their own mistakes. Owning one’s mistakes provides clarity to understand one’s true self.

  • Set clear boundaries

    • This is crucial especially when it comes to girls and women. They’re always taught to be accommodating and accepting. They’re encouraged to find ways to be inclusive and mostly at the expense of their own sense of being. A clear understanding of what is acceptable and what is not can support women to take a stand, make important life choices or perhaps help them to walk out of an abusive relationship.

  • Be independent

    • Access to education and opportunities have allowed women to build their professional careers. Money is power but teaching girls that earning money for themselves is even more powerful. Money is not only restricted to financial independence but it also represents love, stability, and security. Simultaneously, building careers that add to their self worth can be fulfilling in more ways than one.

  • Self-love is a basic human right

    • The age-old concept that women have boundless love to sacrifice themselves for others is a misnomer. There continues to be a breed of women who grow up accepting without resistance when parents spend more on their male sibling or keep the best pieces of food for them or when heirlooms and property are written off in their brother‘s name with the justification that they’ve already spent lavishly on their wedding. This clearly gives the impression that they’re not important enough or not useful in the future. Yet the expectation remains and they’re constantly reminded to do the ‘right’ thing. This potentially makes women anxious and feel guilty when they opt to do something for themselves.

  • The roles you want to play are your prerogative

    • Men and women both play multiple roles over the course of their lives. The one that sets them apart is that of motherhood. Motherhood can be an identity. It can feel limiting and simultaneously liberating. If a woman chooses not to embrace motherhood, it’s crucial to accept her choice instead of being judgemental. A woman doesn’t become any less of a woman if she chooses not to play a particular role in her life.

It’s our collective responsibility to allow girls to grow up being mindful of their strengths, allying their fears, respecting and supporting them to reach the goals they feel they truly deserve.

Trained volunteers at Viveka, a Not-for-Profit organisation, dedicated to promoting and sustaining a mentally and emotionally healthy society, outline the ideal ways to approach various subjects related to mental health.

The Viveka Centre for Emotional Support is there to help individuals suffering from mental health issues including suicidal tendencies. For more information you can reach experts at http://www.vivekatrust.org/