We live in a world where women’s rights are at the forefront of the media. It has become increasingly clear that it is more important than ever to make sure we are teaching the next generation of women that they can be anything they want to be. After all, you can tell a little girl she can be the president of the United States, but that doesn’t mean she will believe it. And why should she? There hasn’t actually been a female president of the United States yet. That coupled with the fact there is still a very real gender wage gap in the workplace means it’s essential that young girls are raised with confidence and the knowledge of how to take on this still very much male-dominated world.
So what can you do as mothers, aunts, friends, mentors and, yes, fathers to make sure the little girls in your life bust through glass ceilings and stand up for themselves, no matter how tough the bullies they combat? You can teach them a few meaningful lessons that will serve them well as they make their way through this imperfect world. Here, the five things you should teach each young woman in your life so she knows the world is her oyster.
Stop Saying "I'm Sorry"
Many women strive to please and, in doing so, find themselves taking blame for things they can't control. Teaching female members of the younger generation that there is no way to make everyone happy—no matter how much they want to—is a key life lesson. Apologizing should be saved for when you have actually made a mistake; it shouldn't be a hobby. When little girls apologize for things that aren't their fault, stop them and make sure they know that saying "I'm sorry" is for when they're wrong, not just when they're present.
You Can Do Anything
It sounds simple, but making sure the little girls in your life know they can be anything—anything at all—is imperative to them believing it. They will meet obstacles and roadblocks along the way, but knowing they are supported and believed in can make all the difference. How will they know that? Tell them. Tell them they can be the president of the United States, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a tech entrepreneur. They should know that nothing is off limits to them. Telling them over and over will hopefully cause them to come to believe it, which is often half the battle. It's amazing the things we can dream about and ultimately achieve if we are encouraged.
Sports Are Badass
This may sound like a strange one, but knowing how to play certain sports—particularly "lifetime" ones like skiing, golfing and tennis—can alter the way men regard women. "Keeping up with the boys" (or sometimes being faster and much better than said boys) can create an attitude shift in the way a man looks at a woman. Sad as this may be, a man often has more respect for a woman once he is afraid she might be better than him at something. If the young female in your life shows an interest in a sport that will allow her to win in more ways than one, encourage her, challenge her and remind her there is nothing unfeminine about being a badass.
"Pretty" Is Just An Adjective
You can say this one till the end of time, but we still live in a society obsessed with looks, youth and weight. You can tell the little girl with the bump on her nose or the round belly or the strong legs that none of those things matter, but she will look around and find you difficult to believe. That's a fact of life and not one that will likely change anytime soon. But it's still imperative to remind little girls that being the prettiest girl in school is not something to strive for—it's not an actual achievement. And once these little girls grow into women, they may realize for themselves that often the most amazing men aren't married to the most gorgeous wives. And even girls with perfect noses, flat bellies and long legs have problems too—everyone does. There is no perfect face, body or life. It can look that way from the outside, but there isn't. Do your best to make sure the little girl in your life knows she's pretty in her own perfect way and that how she treats others is the fastest way to be perceived as beautiful in the eyes of others.
Partners Don't Equal Happiness
Teaching little girls to be independent may be the most important lesson on this list. Having an awesome partner is, well, awesome, but a woman has to be an awesome person to have an awesome partner. The ability to be comfortable on her own is the single most powerful—not to mention attractive—trait a woman can have. If a girl spends her life searching for a mate, she will miss a lot of the joy and fun that comes from the independence of being alone. And she will lack the self-confidence that derives from spending time on one's own, not to mention the knowledge that comes with it. Worse yet, she may not feel happy until she's paired up, and that's no way to walk through this precious and short life. Making sure the young women around you know a partner should uplift them—not define them—is one of the most empowering lessons of all.