By Anea Bogue, B.Ed., M.A.
Find and use your voice: Remember that it’s a muscle and, like all muscles, gets stronger with use. Many of us stopped using our voice honestly and boldly when we were girls and were taught, as part of our socialization, to say and do what would most please others. Start small by practicing with those who will love you no matter what comes out of your mouth, and work toward consistently using your voice assertively on behalf of yourself and others.
Reconnect with your cycle: Menstruation is a fundamentally powerful part of being female and can be your ally when you understand the rhythmic hormonal changes you are moving through every single 28-30+ day cycle. Did you know, for example, that rising estrogen in the first half of your cycle boosts your energy and increases your verbal fluency? Or that rising progesterone in the second half will inspire more mellow energy and increase your desire to move inward? Whether planning a big work presentation or just understanding that you’re not crazy when you experience normal peaks and valleys throughout the month, reconnecting with your cycle is truly empowering. Dr. Christiane Northrup has done some amazing writing on the subject and MyTrueMoon.com has tremendous resources for women and girls.
Embrace your sexuality. Women are born as powerful, sexual, multi-orgasmic beings. Unfortunately, this reality has been buried under centuries of cultural programming that has taught us to feel shame for our bodies and our sexuality. If you haven’t done so already, commit to becoming the subject of your own sexuality rather than the object of someone else’s. Devi Ward is one of my favorite ladies working with women in this realm.
Swear off toxic media: A University of Missouri-Columbia study showed that, regardless of weight, women were equally negatively affected after looking at images of models in magazines for just 3 minutes. When we put something in our mouth that tastes bad, we generally spit it out; yet we feel compelled to regularly consume media that makes us feel bad about ourselves. Whether fashion magazines filled with photo-shopped images that are setting an unhealthy bar, or television and movies riddled with objectified, catty, limiting portrayals of women, minimizing your exposure will maximize your ability to define and embrace your own beauty, inside and out.
Rediscover your ferocity: Marianne Williamson frequently references anthropological research that suggests a direct correlation between the longevity of mammalian species and the ferocity of their females. Most female mammals will fiercely protect their young, often banning together with other females to do so, and are prepared to die trying. We have to be able to do at least as well as other species and yet we often hold back for fear of being called ‘bitchy’ or ‘crazy.’ Whether on behalf of yourself or on behalf of other women, children and those who may not be able to defend themselves, reconnecting with your innate and powerful ferocity to take a stand against injustices, large and small, will positively impact everyone.
Treat your body as a temple: The fact is – your body is a temple of sorts. It is a sacred ‘building’ that houses the endless creative possibility a human life represents. As the gatekeeper of a temple, you wouldn’t allow someone to walk in with a bag of dirty garbage. Nor would you allow them to scream obscenities, defame its beautiful walls, or treat it with disrespect. When you think of your body as a temple and yourself as its gatekeeper, it quickly becomes impossible to do harm to it in word or deed. And if you’ve tapped into your ferocity, anyone else who tries to do so is in for a warning growl that will cause them to re-think their approach.
Commit to 30 minutes of ME time every day: The immediate impact on your psyche when you consciously decide that you are valuable enough to find dedicated time to nurture yourself is undeniable. The key is to make it a scheduled part of your day, because it’s that important. Use this time to read a book that speaks to your soul, meditate, sit in a quiet place, write, paint… peel off the ‘who I’m supposed to be’ layers and re-discover YOU.
Consciously create healthy relationships: Most of us know red flags of unhealthy relationships when we see or feel them. In friendships, romantic relationships, or otherwise, the problem is our tendency to paint those red flags white. Whether we are subconsciously following an unhealthy example we witnessed in childhood, want to avoid conflict, or are paralyzed by a fear of being alone, we tend to lose sight of our boundaries and what we will and will not accept from others. You would certainly tell a little girl that she has the right and an obligation to her own well-being, to choose people for her circle who build her up not tear her down. Remember that the same applies to you!
Support your ‘sisters’: Sadly, generations of women have learned to mistrust, tear each other down, and compete for the attention or approval of men. Fairy tales introduce these behaviors early on and ‘reality’ television turns them into the expected norm. Imagine how different the world would be if women had each other’s backs. Acknowledge just one woman every day for something you appreciate about her. Stand up for a woman (friend or stranger) when others are talking smack. And remember that little girls around you are watching. Will you show them what it looks like to maintain the status quo or are you ready to stand in your power and in so doing, give them permission to do the same?
Anea Bogue, B.Ed., M.A.: A highly sought-after contributor to various media outlets, Anea is an acclaimed expert on issues of self-esteem with girls and women. The mother of 18-year-old and 6 year old daughters, Anea is absolutely passionate about the empowerment of girls and women and has dedicated more than half her life to this cause. She brings over 20 years of experience to her work as an educator (middle and high school teacher for 10 years), consultant, author and speaker. Anea is also the creator and director of REALgirl®, a revolutionary empowerment program for girls ages 9 – 16, yielding incredible transformations in girls. Her first book was released in May. Titled,9 Ways We’re Screwing Up Our Girls and How We Can Stop: A Guide to Helping Girls Reach Their Highest Potential,it is based on her Master’s Thesis which was dedicated to the self-esteem crisis among women and girls. She also recently co-founded TrueMoon, a new organic tampon company dedicated to providing safe, healthy feminine care productsandpositive, informative messaging for girls and women about their bodies. Whether through her book, featured articles, workshops or speaking engagements, Anea is committed to helping each girl and woman reach her highest potential. She has appeared on CBS, CTV, Global and CW news shows and has been interviewed on multiple radio stations. She writes for the Huffington Post, Maria Shriver, Forbes, Shine, Disney and many more. To learn more about Anea please visit www.AneaBogue.com.