Following Your Dreams

Dreams...  A life filled with magical moments created by you. I’ve had dreams of centering my life around my passions, but I was lead to believe that dreams like that are only reserved for the 1% - rock stars, athletes, and millionaires. Little did I know, living my dream was simply doing what made me feel whole.  

Our dreams are ever changing and may not be the same dreams we had ten years ago (or even last year), but they are really important in helping discover an individual's passion and purpose. So, how can we support girls in their quest to find what moves them, so they can move forward confidently knowing their dreams are within reach?

Below are a few ways I believe we can motivate our girls to live their dreams and in turn live a life that makes them whole.

  • The world is rich with possibility - encourage them to try new things. Let’s face it: it’s not always easy to find what ignites our inner flame. It’s through exploration and opportunity that we find our purpose (or our purpose finds us). Encouraging girls to try new things can help them find what they enjoy doing. 
  • Fill their heads with hope, not doubt. How often do we hear the phrase “I can’t” or “I wish” or “I’ll never be"? Let’s turn the can’t into cans and instill hope; after all, positivity is contagious and could make the difference between chasing dreams or leaving them behind! 
  • Refrain from casting judgment. Now more than ever we see girls filling roles that were historically seen as unconventional. We know girls are capable of anything and everything. If she wants to do something that doesn’t fit the typical mold, encourage her regardless; support her, for both encouragement and positivity go a long way. Soon the doubts will turn to confidence, and she will do amazing things. She will realize she is much stronger and greater than she could ever imagine. She will fly. 
  • Listen to their dreams and aspirations and ask about their goals. Help them plan the steps they need to take to fulfill them. Don’t discourage them, no matter how ambitious or lofty their goals seem.
  • Be a role model. Live your OWN dreams. It’s never too late to fulfill your passion or find your purpose. Do one thing every day that will lead you closer to discovering or living your dreams. Live with intent and ignite your flame!

Tell us: What dreams do you have and what steps are you taking to make them a reality? 

Ashley Shamus is an explorer and endurance runner who feels most at home in the mountains.

She hopes every girl will unlock their true potential through sport and adventure.

My First Did Not Finish

It’s Friday morning. I folded my last batch of laundry and piled it into my bag. I labelled my drop bins with duct tape and sharpie. I signed my waiver.

I’d spent the last year training for this race. Periodically ramping mileage up and reaching new milestones along the way. I picked a 100-mile race that was close to home on familiar territory. I started visualizing what the race would look like in my head. It was going to be of epic proportion, and I was going to make it out on the other side a new woman. Somebody completely different than who started. A woman who looked fear straight in the eye and overcome it with ease. 

The first twenty-five miles of my journey went incredibly fast. I plodded along looking at the mountains around me. I chatted with a few people and stuck to my plan. I was within minutes of the time goals I had set out for myself. 

I thought about the feeling of enlightenment that was going to happen when I crossed that finish line. Man, it was going to feel good. 100-mile races are a strange benchmark in the ultra-running community. Not all choose to run them, but it seems that if you live to tell the tale, you’ve earned the elusive badge of badassery on your ultra-running sash. 

And, of course, in the horrific event that you don’t finish?  Then all of this is stripped from you. In the wise words of my friend Gary Robbins about his first DNF (did not finish), “It felt like everything I'd known about my body was somehow proven to be a lie I'd been telling myself.” 

I would learn a lot about this and self-respect through my own DNF. 

Around 2 AM and sixty-two miles into my race I decided to stop. I turned around and went back to the aid station I had previously passed.  My legs weren’t tired, and I wasn’t peeing blood. I had the best support crew I could have ever asked for, and I had no reason for calling it a day. In fact, I had encountered harder training runs. 

I didn’t shed a single tear until I got home that night to my soon-to-be-husband, Dave. Dave and I are getting married in September and in preparation we are doing pre-marital sessions. A few weeks ago we did an exercise where we had to identify our partners greatest fear. Dave identified my greatest fear as not finishing things I’ve started. I sobbed and told Dave I didn’t want to face my biggest fear in our living room. I wanted it to happen out on the trail. 

For months and months, I wanted so badly for that moment of epic proportions to happen on my first 100 miler. I was going to put all my skills to the test and crossing the finish line would be a symbol of the ability to overcome anything. Instead, my moment would last for the next few dark days to come. I turned to running in the mountains because of its unpredictability. And this was a new situation I hadn’t encountered yet. Monday came no matter what and much to my surprise it was the same as any other Monday. My relentless dedication to the sport continues with more strength than I had on Friday night.

Finish lines and races are excellent ways of testing our performance and skills. But I’ve come to learn that they aren’t as pivotal as I originally thought. And not reaching them is just as important. I recently read an essay Jennifer Pharr Davis wrote regarding the new speed record being set on the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek. The following hit me in the deepest part of my aching heart; 

“I am starting to realize that a true legacy is not so much about performing when the whole world is watching, as it is a dedication to your cause when no one is watching.”

The Sinister 7 is a 100 mile (161km) run through the most rugged, remote and beautiful terrain in Alberta, Canada's stunning Rocky Mountains. 

Lindsay Neufeld is a 24-year-old mountain, ultra, and trail runner and photographer from Alberta, Canada. She is passionate about adventure and showing girls that sports are empowering and can be the key to unlocking your deepest, truest self.

Learning to ride a bike

I am a professional alpine climber.  I take calculated risks and have developed the ability to control fear.  Or so I thought, until I tried to teach my five-year-old daughter how to ride a bike.  I completely underestimated how challenging this would be and wondered if other parents felt like me.  I was a nervous wreck watching my daughter take off, knowing she had no idea how to balance or brake.  

I wasn't entirely sure I was even teaching her properly, and I think she picked up on my frustration, which made the whole ordeal even more traumatic.  I was becoming flustered and impatient with her, and she was losing her confidence, fast!  Wow - could it really be that hard?  

To make it less traumatic for you, we have put these guidelines together - to help you teach your daughter how to be confident on two wheels.  

Bike Size:  

Often we make the mistake of buying bikes that a child can grow into, but this can be a big mistake.  Make sure your daughter can stand over the bike with both feet firmly planted on the ground.  They need to feel totally in control of the bike, and they need to feel confident in their ability to hold it. I made the mistake of taking a second-hand bike from a friend that was too big and quickly realised it wouldn't work, so we were back to the bike shop for a bike her size.  

Location:  

Choose a traffic free area that is large, flat and smooth.  Often people teach their kids on grass, but it can be challenging, due to the bumps, so a paved area is best.  Try a driveway, empty basketball court, or a path that weaves within a park (without pedestrians).   

No Pedals:  

Start without pedals.  Allow them to place their feet flat (not on tip toes) on the ground and to feel the movement of the bike.  They need to comprehend balance.  Have them scoot along and then pick up their feet and coast so that they can feel the bike and understand the way it moves.   It also prevents them from taking skin off their shins when pedals are in the way and they are learning to balance. 

Pedals On:  

Once she is comfortable cruising with her feet up off the ground, we need to put the pedals back on the bike.  However, keep the bike seat low, so she can easily place both feet firmly on the ground. 

How to Pedal:

When she is ready have her stand over the bike with one foot flat on the ground and the other on a pedal raised at the 2 o’clock position.  Tell her to press down on the front pedal firmly, which will give the bike momentum.  A she starts to move forward, steady the bike by placing a hand on the back of the bike seat and then let go.  Her feet can reach the ground comfortably, so she can easily plant them again if she is feeling uncomfortable.   

Steering and Pedaling:  

As they get the hang of pedaling a bike they can start to practice turns.  Try to encourage large turns and going around a course, where they have two large turns at each end, or a figure of 8 - set out some cones or markers to make this a fun game.

Stop:

The scary bit!  Make sure she knows where the brakes are and ask her to practice gently pressing the back pedal brake until she can use it comfortably.  

As she becomes more confident with pushing off and braking, you can move the seat saddle back to the standard position.  

Contributor:  Sarah Jackson is a professional mountain climber based in Utah, USA.  She is a mother to five-year-old Sienna.  

My Uniform Sucks

"My school uniform sucks!"

Have you ever heard your daughter utter those words? It’s not surprising if you consider that school uniforms of today, despite many advancements in equality between the sexes, are still, well, downright sucky. 

Yesterday I watched a young girl riding her bike to school in a very archaic school uniform.  A long dress skimmed her back wheel and her slippery black school shoes regularly slid from her pedals.  I rarely ride my bike in a long dress or a pair of slippery shoes  -- so how can we expect our six-year-old daughters to do it and enjoy exercise and activity?

Thankfully my daughter, Olive, hasn’t made such a ‘sucky’ claim (yet). Her school uniform is a simple cotton polo t-shirt and a pair of culottes,  functional for running, swinging and climbing.  More importantly, it is comfortable and suitable for sitting and lying on the floor in her classroom while playing, listening and reading without constantly flashing her underpants, or being self-conscious about her body.

But this type of school uniform is rare. And, as far as school uniforms go, I think it is about time we broke the tradition of restrictive female school uniform tradition.  We are raising the next generation of girls with confidence, encouraging and inspiring them to have the freedom to play and explore, yet the clothing we are forcing them to wear each day isn't matching our philosophy. 

Box pleated skirts -- really? What parent out there has the time to wash, let alone iron, such attire for their young daughters?  Not to mention the fact that skirts and dresses go over girls heads when they hang upside down.  Don't believe me?  Give it a go -- throw on a skirt and try and do a handstand, hang upside on a monkey bar or do a cartwheel.  

The consequence is more impactful than we realise. When wearing inappropriate school uniforms, girls stop taking risks. They stop hanging upside down. They stop playing.  

Very few girls are joining the boys on the sports field during their class breaks, not because they don't want to play, but because they are dressed inappropriately to participate. 

Every time I’ve raised this issue I receive the same response: "Just buy them a pair of bike tights or bloomers to wear under their uniform". But is that a real, long-term solution?   

I think it’s high time we change the uniform options provided to our young women. Shorts, culottes, trousers -- whatever it might be, give a functional choice that promotes play.  As they get older, they can, of course, elect to express their growing femininity through dresses or skirts. But why enforce it on them when they’re still exploring their bodies and their personalities? 

And while we’re at it, why don’t we address cumbersome school shoes.  School shoes should be comfortable and safe for climbing, running and playing -- not slippery black formal shoes that have no grip on play equipment or grass. Don't even consider playing on wet grass.  

Do you think this is a problem?  Do you think girls need more functional and appropriate attire?  If so, please complete this very short survey, as we want to do something about it. 

Why I lie

 

"I don't lie to be mean, I just tell them I am doing something I am not so I don't have to play with them".

It was an answer given by a seven-year-old girl during one of our programs last week.  I had asked the group if there had been a time recently when they hadn't told the truth.  The reason for this question is to identify truth and lies and how they can be honest, authentic and themselves. The first few answers were expected, responses like telling parents they used toothpaste when they hadn't, but then the can of worms of young girls social interaction opened, and it all came spilling out. 

They all admitted lying to their friends because they didn't want to play with them.  Not because they didn't like them, or enjoy playing with them, but because they wanted to have some time alone, they wanted some space, they were tired and wanted a chance to be alone.  The issue is; they thought if they told the truth, they would be punished for it, and the sad thing, with every story I heard they were.

I was given examples of how the girls who say they don't want to play are left out of the group, picked on and called names.  When they told their friends they wanted to play alone, they were laughed at.  Therefore, the girls realised they needed a story, elaborate stories at that - from ballet lessons, to sick family members - in order to remove themselves from a social situation.  They felt they needed an excuse not to play so that they wouldn't be punished by the other girls.

What was interesting is they agreed they could also be mean, and say horrible things, in the same situation.  When someone told them they didn't want to play, they admitted to punishing them.  

They then told me adults do the same thing (very interesting) and I tend to agree. Do we tell people honestly we don't want to join a particular social occasion or event because we want our own time, or do we use our busy schedules to remove the potential conflict?  "Sorry, I would love to join you, but I have a work deadline."  What tools are you using at home to remove yourself from a social situation you don't want to join? 

Maybe our girls are following our lead - ballet class, pet feeding, and swimming lessons are being used as excuses to remove them from social situations.

What can we do about it?  Firstly, it seems they are craving some alone time, so do we need to schedule so many playdates and activities?  Secondly, we need to be aware it is happening and as a start we need to talk to our daughters about allowing their friends to have their space.  We need to teach them that this is not a form of rejection that deserves punishment.  They need to learn to admire and respect their friends who tell them the truth.  True friendship is allowing each other to be themselves.  

Then we need to encourage our girls to do the reverse - to feel comfortable being honest with their friends.  This might take time, so just be aware, the next time you hear your daughter tell a friend she can't come over to play because she has a swimming lesson, she might be using it as a tool to remove herself from a social situation.  

Finally, be aware of how you present the situation in your home environment?  Are you being honest with your friends in front of your children?

Another Mother?

Having lived in six countries in the past ten years, I am familiar with the pain of saying goodbye to friends.  Friends who became family.  Friends who supported me as I navigated new countries and settled into new cultures. Friends who have shared so many of the ups and downs. 

In a few weeks I am saying goodbye to another, a true soul mate, who is going to leave a wide gaping hole.  But the reason it is so much harder this time, is not only the impact her departure will have on me, but also the loss that will be felt by my children.

When we left our last location, over two years ago, they were too young to comprehend the significance.  Now my daughter understands the magnitude of this goodbye, and we are both dreading it.  

Why?  Because this great friend, Cissy has been the most significant "external" (out of home) role model for my daughter to date.  She has had a profound impact on her view of the world.  She has been there when I couldn't, encouraging, inspiring and supporting her.  They eat dumplings together, go on adventurous road trips and have conversations that are beyond me.   They practice Chinese, freeze plastic dolls in the freezer as science experiments and gang up on me in the nicest way possible.  

The most important thing is she has proven to me how important it is for our daughters to have strong role models who are an integral part of our life.  The everyday role model, not the actor, the musician, or the athlete, but women we know personally, who make the time to connect, to share to educate and to encourage our girls.  

We don't need to do this parenting game alone, after all, they say it takes a village.  

Who is your daughter's other mother?  

Am I Pretty?

"Mum, do I look pretty"?  I can't stand the question but to make matters worse my five-year-old daughter doesn't buy my response.  Fair enough, my answer is long winded.  I explain that pretty is your soul, it is who you are inside - your passions and how you treat others.  Problem is; she just looks at me like I am a fool and says "no it isn't, pretty is what you look like".  

I fully appreciate the kind gesture and the thoughtful meaning behind the appearance comments, but we shouldn't be so naive as to the impact it is having on our girls and boys.  The message girls are receiving is that we value what they look like, more than what they do.  The message boys are receiving is not dissimilar, that girls are an object of beauty. 

We have actually discussed this issue before, in another post called Stop Calling Our Girls Cute, but I wanted to raise it again, because I am being asked the "am I pretty" on a daily basis, and it is starting to concern me.  

Did you know a staggering 85 percent of ten-year-old girls in the USA have actively dieted? Since I am Australian, I wondered if the statistics there were as alarming, only to read that 70 percent of adolescent girls have body dissatisfaction. But, then I remember back to my teenage years and university life, and I am surprised the statistic isn't higher.  At my university college, we had the First XV, selected by the boys, of course.  No, I am not talking about the girls who were picked for the rugby team, I am talking about the "hottest 15 girls at college".  Discussed and decided in great detail, and documented on the noticeboard by a group of young men, many of whom have daughters of their own now.  I often wonder how they would feel if their daughter were subjected to this game?  I wonder if they are fully aware of the damage discussions of this nature can have on girls. I wonder if the girls in college today would stand up against this behaviour, or be as intimidated as we were 20 years ago?    

So at the moment, I dread the "am I pretty?" question, but it is nothing on how much I am worried about where this could go if we don't change the situation.  In short, we need to stop emphasising the importance of appearance. 

For that reason, I beg you, the next time you see a girl, of any age, please do not comment on her appearance.  Look her in the eye and talk to her about music, sport, school, books, anything but how she looks.  They are listening to everything, and the greatest compliment we can give is to take a genuine interest in who they are, not what they look like. 

Outdoor Play Builds Confidence

I have found it tough returning to Singapore, since spending the Christmas break home in my native Australia.  Mainly because of the impact our time away was having on my 5-year old daughter.  

Over the holiday period, we watched her self-confidence unfold as she spent more time in the natural environment with unstructured outdoor play. 

Don’t get me wrong, outdoor unstructured play exists in Singapore, but it can be more challenging to implement due to factors such as heat, humidity and access to green spaces. But it is becoming increasingly critical that we overcome these barriers and find solutions to the problem, for the sake of our kids, especially our daughters.

I am sure all of us are aware and have experienced the positive benefits of the natural environment.  For me, being out in nature, running a mountain trail, camping under the stars, or swimming in the ocean is soul food.  It makes me feel energised, positive, and motivated, and I am certain it has the same impact on children.  Well, if the research is anything to go by, it does. The numerous amount of studies done totally favour unstructured outdoor play in the natural environment.  However, the surprising fact is that unstructured outdoor play is very much on the decline, and the result of this decline is negatively impacting our children.  

A recent study, conducted in Norway, shows an increase in childhood obesity, an increase in screen time (up to 3 hours per day for many) and a decline in motor skills amongst children. Not to mention an increasing need for physical therapy classes, to develop core strength and posture, all due to a lack of physical activity, much of which can be undertaken for free, outdoors. 

The same research also states that 40% of children aged between 3 and 7 expressed a wish for more time for physical activity.  However, these same children also complained about the lack of suitable areas for free time activities such as climbing, building dens and “mucking” around.   

IMG_5345.JPG

Natural environments represent dynamic and rough playscapes that challenge motor activity in children. Topography, like slopes and rocks, afford natural obstacles that children have to cope with, vegetation provides shelters and trees for climbing and open grass areas are ideal for running and tumbling. 

I certainly noticed the positive impact as I watched my daughter climb trees, discover dens, scamper over rocky ledges and just run around.  She thrived by just playing, no classes, no lessons, no teachers, just play.  

So, as a mother, passionate about building girls self-esteem and confidence through physical activities it has been hard leaving Australian shores.  The beaches, parks and backyards that come with Australian territory are incredible resources for building self-esteem, creativity and confidence.  

Our mornings spent at the beach playing in rock pools or on the farm finding animal hideouts in paddocks will be replaced with perfect swimming pools and structured extra-curricular activities. But it has made me even more determined to create a more free play environment for my daughter in Singapore and to try and implement three easy solutions

  1. Make an increased effort to get to outdoor areas such as the Botanic Gardens and East Coast Park for just running and mucking around.
  2. Choose parks with trees and rocks and slopes, rather than a constructed playground.  
  3. Encourage outdoor play whenever possible, be it, jumping in puddles on the concrete driveway or walking to the library instead of taking the car

5kms with a 5yr old

Before we set off 

Before we set off 

Last Saturday my 5-year-old daughter and I ran our first 5km together.  We were taking part in the Mini Mermaid Running Club Virtual 5km, which meant it was just us - no race day atmosphere, drinks stations or crowd to cheer us on.

The night before the "race" we talked about how far it was and how hard it might be, and she was naively excited.  Trying on her running t-shirt and jumping around the house in anticipation.

She woke me early on Saturday morning and was eager to set off, as was I, considering the 29-degree temperatures and high humidity of Singapore.  But, It wasn't long before the fun and excitement faded and the reality of the situation set in.  The run was not going to be fun. 

Happy faces before we departed

Happy faces before we departed

In all honesty, it wasn't the greatest 90 minutes of my life, and I suffered enormous waves of mother guilt while we slogged the pavement.  But, despite how mean I felt, I thought it was very important that we completed the race, for a number of reasons.  

Firstly, we were not doing this race for us, we were doing it to enable other girls to take part in the MMRC program in the USA through their One4One program.  We had discussed that numerous times in the lead up to the race and during the run itself.  At one point I firmly said "Olive, this is not about you, this is about doing something hard for someone else", at which stage she decided to quieten down for a few hundred metres.   I believe it is important that we do things for others, and I think it is important that we develop this in our children, for them to understand it is not all about them, which is a hard concept to grasp at 5 years. 

The use of the word hard was also fitting - the run was hard.  It was hot; it was humid; it was a long way for her little legs, but I wanted to demonstrate to her that life is hard and that good things take hard work.

See, my daughter doesn't comprehend hard.  Not, in the same way, many other children her age might, especially in developing regions.  She doesn't come home from school and tend animals, or collect firewood or water, or care for her brother on her back.  In fact, many children walk 5kms to and fro school on a daily basis, this would literally be a walk in the park for them. Olive's world is clean and comfortable and not very hard at all, and raising children in an environment like Singapore can be challenging, because we are not giving them enough opportunities to comprehend hard. 

Finally, I want my daughter to understand the potential of her body and mind.  During the run, she threw a barrage of insults at me, from "I do not like you right now" to "I never want to run again". If you had been a bystander to the situation, it would be fair to say I looked like a horrible mother forcing my daughter to be a champion long distance runner.  Pushing her onwards as the sweat and tears merged on her cheeks (yes, it really was that bad). 

the end - tears were merging with sweat 

the end - tears were merging with sweat 

I am not forcing my daughter to be a runner, but I do want her to understand the power and potential of her body and mind.  I want her to comprehend her limitless potential and that it is up to her to push and strive and motivate to achieve her goals, not mine.  

When we got home, I was clearly proud of her, but I didn't make a huge deal of it (I sound horrible I know). The reason being, I love her regardless.  If she had completed the race or not, she is still loved and I was still immensely proud.  I want her to understand that you should be surrounded by those who support you, love you and are there for you if you fail or if you finish.  

So, it wasn't the most pleasant experience, and she refused to speak to me for at least 30 minutes.  Yes, it was a tough ask of a five year old, but, I can assure you; she has worn her running smile with pride all week and cashed in several times on the achievement -  a mighty achievement indeed.  You would also be pleased to hear that she asked if we could go running again the next day, only she would take her scooter....  

Why Girls Only?

We have been asked the same question a number of times now,  so I thought I would address it in this week's post.  

Why are your programs only for girls?  It is a great question, because at SisuGirls, we strongly believe girls and boys should walk together and work in partnership, not in silos.  In fact, many of our greatest advocates are males - from our fathers, to our partners, our brothers and our sons - their involvement is critical.  However, we are also very much aware of a large number of young girls who do not feel comfortable and will not push themselves or be themselves in the presence of boys.  

Interestingly I wasn't like that myself.  I was keen to compete with the boys, and went to an all-boys school for several years, but my daughter is the opposite. She is not comfortable trying new pursuits if boys are around, with the fear of "being laughed at and not being very good" (her words not mine).  Yes, I would love her to play sports and participate with boys equally, but I feel she needs some support and encouragement to get to that stage, which is why we designed SisuGirls.  We believe by providing a safe, all-female environment, it will allow girls to build and develop their confidence to the stage where they feel prepared to play and participate, and to be themselves, alongside boys.  

To back that up, an increasing number of studies also indicate the unique challenges that young girls face in comparison to young boys and the need for all-girls programming.  In one study entitled “Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America” , it demonstrated, among many other things that girls’ self-esteem decreases with age while boys’ self-esteem remains constant.  These levels of self-esteem seem to be decreasing at an even faster rate.  I am constantly perplexed with the self-harm statistics - previously 1 in 5 girls would self-harm, now it stands at 1 in 4.  Earlier this week I was saddened to read about a 10-year old girl in Australia who took her life. 

Self-harm, anxiety, self-esteem, body image, and relationship behaviour are just some of the challenges that are very real in today's world.  We need to be creating safe places for girls (and boys) to be themselves, to have fun, to develop confidence and self-worth.  There needs to be the opportunity to understand relationships, develop friendships, discuss bullying and topics such as body image in an environment of comfort.

Yes, I believe there is a need for a program like SisuGirls for boys too, and maybe that is something we will look at down the road.  But at the moment, from my experiences as a woman, a mother, a wife, and a daughter my mission is to provide a safe space for girls to be themselves.  I want all girls to develop self-confidence and pursue their dreams, and if that needs to happen in an all-girls environment for some girls, then that is what we will do. 

Is Competition Killing Fun?

American gymnast dissapointed in her performance

American gymnast dissapointed in her performance

I have always been a huge advocate of team sports and fierce competition, I believe the life skills you develop in the sporting arena are critical for survival in the big wide world - teamwork, wining, losing, turning up and taking part, not to mention the commitment involved to the training, your team and yourself.


But lately I have been questioning the role of competitive programs - when are they a positive and when can they be detrimental?  It can be conflicting, because on one hand I believe competitive programs teach you very quickly that there is only one winner and in order to be that winner you need to work for it, you need dedication, commitment, and discipline, but, on the other hand, as a mother of a five year old daughter, in an increasingly competitive world, I am also wondering how much competition we actually need?  This conflict has come from my recent experiences..


SisuGirls offers non-competition activities including rock-climbing, skateboarding and running to 5 to 13 year old girls.  They are very much personal pursuits, however, every week we have at least one girl in tears, including my own daughter, because she "didn't win" and she doesn't think she is "good enough".  What follows the tears is a barrage of negative commentary - "I don't want to do this, I give up, I am not having fun" - yet, when we dig a little further and ask different questions, we actually get a totally different story - we are told "I am having fun, but I can't do it, I am not very good".  We see it week after week, a young girl who decides she doesn't want to do it anymore because it isn't going her way, she isn't winning, and this is in a non-competitive sports program - so what is happening in competitive programs?  Are girls dropping out of activities they actually enjoy because of their fear of failing, of not being the winner or on the winning team?  


I don't necessarily have an answer for this issue, I just thought it was a very interesting observation and one to be aware of as a mother.  For me, I am going to continue to encourage my daughter to take part in the activities she actually enjoys, even if she isn't very good and I am going to try and emphasis the importance of continuing to turn up and take part and to try.  But I am also looking into pursuits that aren't always competitive - ballet without the exams perhaps, or better still, like we did as kids, just let her play freely and discover the wining and losing for herself.  

The Fine Line of Fear

HAYLEY ASHBURN ON THE HIGHLINE - PHOTO BY BRIAN MOSBOUGH AND SLACKLINE MEDIA

HAYLEY ASHBURN ON THE HIGHLINE - PHOTO BY BRIAN MOSBOUGH AND SLACKLINE MEDIA

We have recently started another cycle of SisuGirlsClimb and when watching a new batch of 5 to 8 year old girls take to the climbing wall it really got me thinking. Where does fear come from?  The reason I ask is because one of the new girls, a total climbing newbie, who had never seen a climbing wall, or met any of the girls in the group before stepped into her harness in silence, glanced with apprehension at the coach and scaled the wall with such confidence and ability that it was hard to imagine she hadn't done it before.  But then it struck me, why should she be afraid?  What does she have to be afraid of?  Are we born with fears or do we create them? 

The interesting fact is, we are actually only born with two fears, a fear of falling and a fear of loud noises, these are two survival mechanisms we have passed from generation to generation, but this 5 year old clearly wasn't scared of falling, as she scaled the wall with such ease, and even managed the descent with the same confidence, a typical stumbling point for most new climbers.    When she came down I asked her, "how did it feel up there, you were so high" and she said "when I look down I feel high, but I am so happy".  No mention of fear, of being scared, or frightened.  Do we put these words into the mouths of our girls?  Are we helping them develop these fears?

Research shows that any fears you experience have been acquired throughout your life and are often caused by certain events and situations that have marked your mind and emotions in a way that make you feel scared.  Are adults creating children's fears?

I personally believe it is important to have a certain level of fear, to be scared a little, as this fear develops our ability to use caution and to be aware of potential danger and risk.  Therefore, it is important that we talk about being scared or frightened and the risks associated with certain activities with girls because it is important for them to recognise these fears and have the tools to respond accordingly.  However it is a fine line - we want girls to develop caution and awareness, but we don't want to let these fears hold them back. 

I believe it is very important for girls to have the ability to express their fears and for those fears to be heard and responded to appropriately.  What happens if you expresses a fear and it is ignored?  Surely that creates an even greater fear and a lack of trust?  

We see a very fine line at SisuGirls between encouraging girls to overcome their fears, but to also be given the opportunity to express their fear and have that fear worked on, slowly, in a safe and trusting environment.  We encourage the girls to say, "I don't feel safe, or happy, and I want to come down" and rather than coax them on and force them through their own no, we emphasis the fact that they have been heard and that they have made their choice and we all stick with it - with confidence.  

It is certainly something to think about, that fine line between creating caution and creating a fear.