I am blessed (seriously) to work with a lot of girls and women, and I’ve been especially lucky to hang out at camp this week. The girls make me laugh, they make me shake my head, and sometimes what they say breaks my heart.
Today at camp we played some games, sort of camp-Olympics style. Tug-of-war, bean bag toss, sack races, the usual camp games. And I had one camper (full disclosure: my favorite camper) who wasn’t doing as well as the other girls. The things that I heard come out of her mouth made me want to hug her, shake her, cry with her. “I’m just not good at this stuff. I’m such a loser.” I didn’t have the words or the power to get her to understand how much of a winner she actually is, how jump rope does not matter but her kindness does.
I worked with other girls last night, older, whose biggest fear is failure. Failing to impress. Failing to succeed. Failing to make the right grades, to get into the right college, to be good enough for their parents, teachers, mentors and G.S. leaders. Take care of yourselves first, my co-facilitator and I tried to tell them, but that wasn’t a message I listened to when I was their age. We told them about the women we work with, how we all apologize when we speak—“I’m sorry but…” and insert the opinion after. We do this, even when we know the person we’re speaking with agrees.
I work with adult women, in what I would consider safe spaces (at least non-hostile), who hold themselves back, who denigrate themselves, their opinions, their contributions. I want to shout to the rooftops, “You are good enough already!” but when I tell them this, they look at me with sad eyes and I know it isn’t reaching them.
So I go home and I say it to the mirror. And I hope one day if I can convince myself, I can pass it on.