One of the greatest joys of my life is being a mom to my daughter. Her arrival into this world opened my eyes to things I never expected, reaffirmed my belief in the power of girls and women, and turned me into a fiercer feminist than I ever thought possible, mostly because I am aware that there are still many obstacles in the world that she will be faced with that her brother will never be. It isn't fair, but it is reality, and I want her to be prepared for it.
There are so many things I hope she knows before she leaves the safe nest her father and I have created for her: how to stand up for herself, how to treat that body of hers with care and respect, and how to live boldly. At some point, I know she will have to make her own path away from me. I want that independence for her, but I also hope she'll enter the world armed with some rules from mom that help guide her along her way. Darling girl, here are 10 rules I hope you will always follow.
- Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. You make your own destiny and decide what you are and are not capable of (it's OK to not be an expert at everything). Don't let anyone else set your path or break you down. There are millions of women in the world who were told they couldn't be or do something who went right ahead and did it or became it. Be one of those women.
- Be kind. Don't judge others because they are different from you. Treat all humans equally and compassionately. Go out of your way to be kind, helpful, and loving. There will be times when you need kindness from others, so pay it forward. Not only will kindness come back to you, but the action is a reward in and of itself.
- Be tough. Speak up for yourself. Don't tolerate bad behaviour, oppression, or harassment. Be brave enough to go after what you want, no matter how hard it is to achieve. Life will knock you down, failures are inevitable, but brush yourself off and keep going. Persevere, my girl.
- Find your tribe. Nothing is better than a strong squad of girlfriends who get you and celebrate your quirks, strengths, and differences. When you find these girls and women, hold tight, and when you realise that a friendship isn't making you better or happy, be confident in letting it go.
- Try something out of your comfort zone. Be brave and fearless. Jump off the high dive, try a new hobby, or travel someplace all alone. You will learn new things about life and yourself, and that information will serve you well.
- Live alone. At least once in your life, live alone, without family, roommates, or a significant other. There is great value in finding out who you are without other people and in having time for self-reflection.
- Work on being "pretty" on the inside more than the outside. As a girl, you're going to hear a lot about your exterior beauty and how to amplify it. There is nothing wrong with loving beauty products and pretty clothes, but spend as much energy on your inner beauty as you do your outer appearance. Only when you know and love yourself will you truly feel beautiful.
- Find your passion and follow it. Look around at the world, discover new things, and figure out what excites and speaks to you. Whatever that thing is, I promise there's a way to incorporate it into your future career. Don't settle for a life spent punching a clock; find a path that fulfils you, and work hard to find a way to eventually get paid to do what you love. (PS Work just at hard and enthusiastically at the entry-level jobs that will get you there.)
- Only invest in people who lift you up. In friendships and romantic relationships, you will find people who love you for who you truly are — and people who don't get you at all. That's OK. Just don't spend too much time or energy on the people who want you to change the big stuff in you. There are others who will celebrate those same qualities, and those people are the ones you want to surround yourself with.
- Love yourself first. It all starts with knowledge, esteem, and love for yourself. That is the basis of your future relationships, jobs, hobbies, and adventures. And if you ever forget why you're so worthy of love, just ask me, and I'll gladly give you 100 reasons.