During my second day at Girls in the Game, I participated in an all-day Coaches training for our After School program. During this time we as we ran through various scenarios as either a “coach” or a “girl”, one comment from our after school manager, Katherine, really made me stop and re-evaluate.
She explained that at Girls in the Game we compliment the girls on their character, enthusiasm, or choices, not on their physical appearance. Of course, that much seemed blatantly obvious. However, Katherine went on to point out our tendency to compliment girls on their clothing or belongings. For example, “Your backpack is so cute” or “I love those shoes”. We have a bad habit of focusing on girls’ belongings and appearance instead of on their character.
At that moment, I realized that I am not only guilty of this but I do it frequently. Complimenting my friends and coworkers on a particularly nice dress or pair of shoes is something I find myself doing almost daily; I would even go so far to say that it’s a central part of our culture. Yet I rarely find myself giving my male friends or coworkers the same compliments.
That’s not to say that we should never compliment someone on a particularly snazzy outfit. However, it is vital that we also take the time to affirm women and girls on their character, their abilities, and their choices. Why do we go for the easy, shallow compliments so often instead of digging deeper? Especially when these deeper compliments are so important to young girls’ as they form their identities.
I can clearly remember sitting down with my 6th grade teacher after shyly giving her a long-winded story I had written in my free time. She not only had the patience to read it, but discussed it in detail with me and continued to encourage me as a young writer and thinker. That moment became a pillar in my mind, something that formed my identity as a young girl. Someone that I looked up to told me that I was smart, that I was talented, and that I had something important to say which helped give me my voice.
This is the kind of encouragement that we strive to give the girls at Girls in the Game. We want them to know without a doubt that who they are is more important than whether or not they have kept up with the latest backpack or fashion trends. That their character matters more than their ability to kick a soccer ball. That their coaches notice how hard they work, how intelligent they are, and how much they have to offer the world around them.
I will be looking to change the way that I compliment those around me. I don’t particularly need one more comment on my awesome leather jacket (although, yes, it was a great thrift store bargain). More than that, our friends, family, and the girls in our lives need to be lifted up and encouraged through affirmations about who they are on the inside; and that is just what I plan on doing from here on out.