Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'm Done With THAT!

“I reject your reality and substitute it for my own.” Adam Savage

I come from a long line of storytellers. My Dad was one of the best. He was a well known politician who often shared vibrant and very dramatic stories to further his political platform.

Kids, as we know, have an active imaginary life. Just watch any child play. A stick becomes a wand. A rock becomes a mountain. A bottle becomes a musical instrument. Children have this uncanny and beautiful way of weaving intricate stories around seemingly mundane objects.

Children also have an uncanny and revelatory way of weaving intricate stories around the “what is” of their personal lives. If Mom is crying a lot and Dad is yelling, then the child’s active imagination begins creating stories to rationalize the discomfort they are feeling. Because children are, by nature, ego-centric they land on a story which usually involves them starring in the lead role, front and center.

“Yesterday, I came home without my lunchbox and Mom got upset. I can be less forgetful and then Mom won’t cry so much. I need to do better. ”

“This morning, I dropped my books on the floor and woke Daddy up. He got really mad. I need to try to be quieter.”

“My mom drinks too much and my dad is never around. Clearly I am not good enough or they would both love me.”

“The popular girls pick on me because I’m fat. I’ll never be good enough.”

“Even though I’m in the popular group, I don’t really fit in. If they really knew who I was, they’d push me out so fast.”

Four weeks ago I attended a leadership retreat at the Center for Intentional Leadership entitled “Quest for Personal Leadership.” (To learn more, check out their website: I highly recommend it!) Tom Lane, our facilitator for the retreat told me I was in for a life-changing experience. Little did I know!

For three days, I was in a room with 18 people. Strangers at first. If I knew anyone, it was only tangentially. Over the course of that first day we shared our life stories. All 18 of the individuals seated in that room, shared gut-wrenching and poignant stories of their upbringing, revealing the most raw and real of themselves. We cried, we laughed, we shouted, we were and at the end of our telling those stories…we were overcome with a feeling of one-ness…each of our stories revealing within the very act of its telling one universal imaginary story and it was:

“I am not good enough.”

What starts as nothing more than our child-story to bring order and meaning to the day-to-day ins and outs of our young and “unexplained” lives, ends up being a universal theme adopted by our culture, society and the systems we create. The circle never ends. Our culture perpetuates the “I am not good enough just as myself” story and our children are influenced by it. Children adopt the story as true and then grow up to be the adults who create the systems that perpetuate it.

An entire advertising industry has built itself upon this story.

Some religions, many of them dangerously demeaning to girls and women, have built empires upon this story.

Governmental systems have institutionalized this belief in many of their practices and policies.

Education in America is rooted in this belief through requiring children to demonstrate their job/college worthiness with high performance on test scores and measurable academic achievement.

By the end of that three day retreat I told my new friends that I was done with buying into, explaining away and making up stories to explain why my potential was limited…why the Girl Box limits me.

The longer I am involved with Girls on the Run the more it reveals about my own story-telling and the stories of our culture. I now see that Girls on the Run provides tools that enhance a girl’s blossoming sense of self, and also provide her with the skills to critically think through situations…to unravel her self-worth from the stories our culture makes up about her and to think for herself with a clear mind and an open heart.

What stories have you made up about yourself that have allowed you to buy-in to the made-up messages of the Girl Box? Are you done with that? If you are not those stories, what/who are you?
Let me know at

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