Thinking about little girls: Gut Instincts

Little Curly Haired Girl I finished reading " Lean in" this week by Sheryl Sandberg.  I'd strongly recommend you read it as well.  Frankly I think everyone should read it (man or woman).  It's got me thinking about many different aspects of the female life, not simply workplace related.

Given the current cross roads I've found myself in, I've been thinking about how we don't teach our children to trust their gut, especially our female children.  Maybe you are teaching your daughter how to trust herself and if so this is great, but looking back on my childhood trusting myself, my gut, my instinct was certainly not talked about or cultivated.  This is not a criticism to my parents, it's more a commentary on society in general.

When I think about decisions I've made in the past, I know I've made really big decisions more on calculations of what I think the "smart choice" in life is, than on what I really wanted in my heart.  Have you done that?  For example in college I would have loved to do a semester abroad.  I reasoned that I couldn't afford it, I couldn't afford to live abroad for a semester and not be working ect...  .  Yes, on paper that was a very smart choice right?  But regardless I'm still paying off student loan debt, I'm not sure that a semester abroad would have really made it any worse than it is and the experience would have been priceless.  I've taken and stayed with jobs I've not been completely jazzed about because they are the "smart" financial choice.  I've dated men long-term because they seemed like safe bets, choices that wouldn't break my heart (clearly this one has not worked out for me at all).  I don't always say no to people and events that I should say no to.  It comes down to not trusting myself.  I don't think I'm the only person who does this, I believe there are many, I'm sure some men do this, but I have a hunch that it's more of a female thing.

I'm happy to report in most of my adult life thus far, I think I'm getting better and better about trusting myself.  Finding and listening to what my gut is telling me is still hard, but I'm stopping to try to figure it out.  Even still questions still nag at me.  How do I continue to cultivate a trust in myself, a trust of my gut feelings and gut desires?   Not just go with them, but recognize and walk with them.  In the times that I do listen to my gut, it's typically gone well, but I don't always  know how to distinguish what my gut instinct actually is.

Let me take this a little further, not only do I wonder how to cultivate it for myself, I wonder how we teach little girls to cultivate a trust in their own intuition?  What if I ever have a little girl? (I'm not planning on having children, but never say never.)  How do we teach little girls to trust themselves, listen to their hearts, be strong, stand up for themselves, and be their own strongest advocates?  How do we teach this?

I've given it a lot of thought recently, I certainly don't think I have all of the answers, but I have a hunch that a few of these would help.

1) Turn off the TV:  This simple thing will get rid of the bombarding of girls with bad messages that you are fat, ugly, not good enough, popular enough, pretty enough ect....  The TV (with rare exceptions) belittles self-esteem.  Get rid of it.

2) Attempt regular conversations with little girls (and yourself) about what their hopes and dreams for the future, help them on the path that they are interested in, constantly brain storming ideas with them about how they can make their dreams come true.  Think about possibilities not road blocks.

3) Teach girls yoga and meditation.  If I had these tools when I was younger, I would be a different person today for sure.

This is what I've got for now.  Do you have anything to add?  How do you think we are doing on teaching girls to listen to their gut instincts?  I'd love to hear your thoughts especially if you have little girls!