Several weeks ago while working on our NEW Girls on Track middle school curriculum, I was pondering a question that required the additional insight of a middle schooler. With my 13 year- old son Hank captive in my car on the ride home from school I asked him, “Why is it that if everyone knows smoking is bad for them, they smoke that first cigarette anyway? What happens so that the years of hearing “smoking is bad for you and can kill you” shuts off and they reach for that cigarette?”
Hank paused for a moment and then said, “They just aren’t listening.”
“Listening to what?” I replied.
“To the truth that is inside. They know it’s bad for them, but they just aren’t listening to that little voice inside. They are listening to stuff on the outside.”
And so, I got to thinking. What else do we not listen to? How often do I know the answer but am so distracted by the noise outside myself that I can’t hear what I already know to be true?
When we are very young, we know instinctively what is good for us. We cry when we are hungry, wet or in distress. We smile at those who genuinely smile at us and flinch when startled.
Children have a natural instinct for knowing the natural course of action. What young child would intentionally inhale a cigarette? They wouldn’t. Their body would reject it.
Sadly, around fifth or sixth grade the volume of the noise from the “outside” has built to such a fevered crescendo that it often drowns out the noise of that quieter but all-knowing voice on the inside. That’s why girls smoke, drink or give pieces of themselves away. They are responding to the voices of the status quo that tell them their worth is measured by a certain set of behaviors, actions and unobtainable standards.
I've often written about the importance of taking ownership of our bodies and intentionally setting a course of action that will create a culture, society and vision for women that allows them the freedom to honor their bodies.
I would also now offer that an important part of the Girls on the Run movement is creating a culture, society and vision for women where all people have the freedom to honor their inner voices.
So… because I am a Girls on the Run-ist celebrating the joys of Girls on the Run-ism (:)) I choose to take the following steps to honor my voice and the voices of women everywhere:
1.) First off, I honor MY voice. Making time to reflect, meditate and quiet the noise of the world around me is an important part of my daily life. Carving out critical time to focus on my intuition/inner voice/ knowing allows me to, as Gandhi so eloquently wrote, “Be the change I wish to see in the world.”
2.) I make a very conscious and intentional effort to differentiate my “knowing” voice from the “outside” voice in the internal dialogue that I have with myself, every day.
I do not respond immediately to activity around me based on either voice, but slow down, breathe, really listen and THEN respond. The action I take is based on the voice that provides direction toward an action where I am lifted up rather than pushed down. For example, how easy is it to jump into a gossip "pool." Without intentional thought, it can be very easy. But when I stop, breathe and listen to my inner voice, my response is to step away from or stop the gossip. When I take an action based on the direction of my “knowing” voice I feel lifted up. The voice inside moves me toward actions that lift me - it is the ultimate truth.
3.) I vow to do my best to honor the voices of those around me.
When I see a woman or girl who is courageously stating her ultimate truth (particularly when it may be counter to the larger group around her), I will honor her strength to do so. I may not agree with her position, but I must respect her right to share her voice. In doing, I help create a culture that gives each of us the freedom to fully express ourselves, without fear of alienation, labeling or retribution.
4.) I will try to eliminate negative judgment from both my internal and external dialogue.
First and foremost, this means I will not negatively judge myself. I will seek words that lift me and others up rather than use words that deflate. Finding words that lift will help affirm the worth that every person has, whether girl, boy, man or woman. There are no deficits. We are full, whole, one and worthy. Words that elevate my spirit are those that come from that intuitive and truthful voice.
I have only recently tapped into this level of awareness, and am delighted to know that there is only more that will reveal itself as I seek it. I love the expression… “We don’t know what we don’t know.” One year ago I did not know or have the same level of awareness that I do now. I wonder and am excited about how much more “not knowing” there is… for me to explore, tap into and one day know!
How have you celebrated and honored your voice?