As a little girl I wanted to be a boy.

Yes. You read that right. I wanted to be a boy. I wanted to be a boy because they were allowed to be loud. They were allowed to be bold. They were allowed to express themselves in ways that as a little girl I was not allowed to and the only justification I received was “well, you’re a little girl and little girls just don’t act like that.”

As I grew older I realized that no, I didn’t actually want to be a boy. What I really wanted was the freedom to be MY kind of girl. I wanted the freedom to be opinionated. I wanted the freedom to be fierce without being labeled “aggressive”. I wanted the freedom to be strong willed without being told that I was being bossy. I wanted the boldness to ask for what I felt I deserved instead of simply taking what I was given because that’s “polite” and what “little girls should do”. I realized as I grew, that those things you tell little girls, become the things that grown women believe.

Because of this realization, I am careful about how I label all of my kids that I work with, especially the little girls. I make sure that when speaking to them I compliment their passion, but also redirect them in how to utilize it correctly. When my teens speak to me about being mistreated in relationships but don’t know if their feelings are valid or if they’re just “being a girl” I remind them that yes, their feelings are valid and that being a girl is who they are and that that’s okay. From there we address the issue. I encourage them to vocalize, even when they are uncomfortable doing so because I understand how much different my life would have been if someone told me at 13 that my voice, my opinion and my feelings matter and that no, you’re not just “being a girl”. In hindsight, I wish I had learned how to appreciate my bossiness and passion and opinionated nature. But because I cannot go back and appreciate it, I make sure that they can. Who’s they? Our sisters, our daughters, our friends, our colleagues…the women who surround us everyday and who might even look up to us.

Let them be soft. Let them be hard. Let them be loud. Let them be quiet. Let them be fearless. Let them be bold. Let them be heard. Let them be loved for the strong powerful women that they are. They are our sisters, they are our mothers, they are our daughters. Celebrate them. Encourage them. Empower them. Embrace them.

Happy International Woman’s Day.