I’m working on an upcoming TEDx talk and could sure use your input. To get you thinking…let me start here…in 1996 I started Girls on the Run International.
Here’s the original “blurb” I used back then to help folks understand what the program was all about.
In 1976, I bought my first pair of running shoes. I was fifteen then and like most fifteen year old girls, trying to figure out who I was inside a changing body. I was desperately wanting to be liked by the beautiful crowd–popular with the boys. But I couldn’t fit into the box the world placed over the spark of my spirit. The box told me things I knew in my soul weren’t true: That the way I looked was more important than who I was inside. That being a woman meant keeping emotions like anger to myself. That having a boyfriend meant giving up part of my own identity. But I stepped in anyway. Hours spent trying to mold my body, my lifestyle, my life into what the box required were extremely painful.
So I ran. I’d strap on those running shoes and head for the woods, the streets, wherever my feet would take me. I felt Beautiful. Strong. Powerful. I felt a part of something greater than myself.
On July 7th, 1993, I remember it well. I put on my running shoes and ran at sunset. I’m not sure what instant of the run the box disappeared, but like a glass womb it shattered around me and pushed me out, born to an entirely new freedom. It was a moment of personal awakening.
A year later, I began work on what was to become the Girls on the Run program. The concept, however, was born long before that July run. It was born in 8th grade when a boy in my class told me with disgust that I looked like a boy. It was born when a young woman, weighing 85 pounds and starving herself, told me she need to lose weight to be beautiful. It was born when I took a pregnant thirteen-year-old on a long walk in the woods.
Girls on the Run is a lot more than a running program. It will, I believe, create an entire generation of girls who can live peacefully and happily outside of the Girl Box.
In the year 2030, I’ll be 70. My daughter will be 32. If I have anything to say about it, she will never have to climb out of the Girl Box. Girls on the Run will shatter the Girl Box, like the spirit did for me that July night and help her and other girls feel comfortable simply being themselves.
Since 1996, the program has reached nearly 400,000 girls and our numbers continue to grow.
I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that the “Girl Box” or “Boy Box” shows up in many different ways for each of us. The Girl Box messages I, “bought into” were generally focused on two things, my appearance and my “social place.” Girls were, back in the 60’s and 70’s generally slotted into only a few professional positions. Thankfully that has changed.
I’m working on an upcoming TEDx talk and would love to hear from you and in your words, what limiting/stereotyped messages you received growing up, either from within your own familial circles or from the larger societal/cultural/systemic context within which you lived. These may not be related to gender. I don’t need to know specifics unless you want to share them.
Also…when in your life did you begin to realize that these messages were not necessarily real or true or accurate? Was there an a-ha moment or was the process more subtle?
You’ve probably figured out by now…that I LOVE connecting dots. I’m working on a “big idea” and am just still in the trying-to-figure-it-all out phase.
You can email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you prefer just write out your thoughts on the comment section right here.