Friday, March 20, 2009

advice for girls

From: Dianne Cameron (

I volunteer with Cool Girls, an afterschool program that targets girls in low-income areas. I work with 60 girls at Carey Reynolds Elementary (3rd to 5th graders) and another 30 at Sequoyah Middle School, trying to encourage them and teach them basic life skills (communication, nutrition, etc.). The area around Doraville (85 / 285 / Buford Hwy) has become extremely diverse, and most of the girls are Hispanic, Black, and Asian, with only a couple Anglos thrown in the mix – not your typical “Southern Women” from Dunwoody or South Cobb.

I just finished reading the Aud Torvingen novels and thoroughly enjoyed them. I was wondering if you might have any advice that I could pass on, particularly to the older girls, about how to succeed in life.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Advice? Words matter. The words you use about others, the words you use to describe yourself, they make a difference. Choose them carefully. Don't accept the words others use about you. Find your own words for yourself. Believe them.

There's a big world out here, just waiting, a world where all kinds of things are possible. One day you'll leave your home, school, neighbourhood, perhaps even your city or your state, maybe even your country. That's where you will find those words that are yours, the ones you want to grow into, the ones you want to be. Brave? Loved? Famous? Strong? Wise? Happy? All good words. All possible. But only if you refuse the labels others want to give you.

I hope readers will chime in here. I hope you will take this chance to give some advice to girls--to say the things you wish someone had said to you when you were twelve or thirteen.



  1. Don't wait for other people to make opportunities for you. You see a gap - fill it. You see a choice - make it. No one can empower you but you, and the only way you can do that is to be the one deciding your own fate.



    Hungry for Yuri? Have some Okazu!

  2. You know what? I just wish I'd *listened* to the stuff I was told when I was 12 or 13, that folks say even today to 12 and 13 year olds and that seem too cheesy to bear but are the honest-to-goodness truth.

    Case in point: "You are beautiful, and you deserve to be loved as you are, and will be loved as you are."

    I think the trick is to take folks through a process where this is their own conclusion, and not something they are told.

  3. Being liked by everyone isn't important -- what's important is being loved by the few people who matter. Choose those few people carefully, make sure they're worthy of your love, and take good care of them.

    If someone puts you down or lets you down, walk away from them and don't let them back in your world until they prove they've changed and can be trusted again.

    Walk through the world with pride and self-love, but always treat others as you want others to treat you. Remember: we get the friends we deserve.

    When you're anxious and fearful, you're probably just tired. Get some rest and things will look better in the morning.

    Family can be both our biggest curse and our biggest blessing. If you're having trouble with your family, remember your relationship won't always be this way. There may come a time when you will develop an adult relationship with your parents, and if you do you, you will treasure it.

    One of the greatest pleasures in life is working hard at something and becoming expert at it. The ability to work hard at something is not an ability everyone has, but it can be learned. If you can learn it, the world is yours.

  4. Decide to be better than everyone else. Then be better than everyone else.

  5. Oh & courtesy equals noblesse oblige-- there are few better ways to prove your excellence than by being polite & civic minded.

  6. When I was in school, I was tormented by a group of mean girls. It got to the point that one day I refused to go to school anymore, I was that terrified.

    That day, my mother said, "Whenever you think they might laugh at you, whether about something you said or did (or not), be the first to laugh. It will catch them off-guard and they won't know what to do." It was afterwards that I learned about a true sense of humour; they left me alone after that.

    Be yourself. You spend most of your life finding yourself, so get a head start now. You won't regret it.

  7. If you need help, ask for it. Needing help is not a sign of weakness. Put out your hand. Someone will take it.

  8. Don't let anyone talk you out of your dreams. You have far more possibilities and options than any of the adults around you - even or *especially* the ones who love and worry about you - realize.

  9. Here is what I wish someone had said to me:


    Would have helped!

  10. Together 'we can' so always find someone to talk things through with and try to be a good listener to them too. There is probably nothing more valuable than a good friend. Everyone is capable of building up a network of close friends to confide in and lean on when things are tough but also to celebrate with, to cry with, to laugh with. I know that society is often geared up to finding a romantic partner but it is often the friendship network that keeps us going through thick and thin. And romantic relationships often fold if lived in isolation from good friends. Find someone you trust to talk to. However hard it is at first, keep trying to put your feelings into words. The more you attempt to express yourself in words the better you'll become at voicing your inner thoughts and feelings and it follows that you'll be nearer to reaching your goals as a person and also in a career. First the dreams then the thought, then the words, then the action, all carefully considered and in that order. Set yourself achievable goals and learn to work on your strengths. And never set limits on what you are capable of. You have every much right to succeed as anyone else. Take the chances that come your way and try to create choices for yourself. Be determined and never give up. Keep dreaming and follow your dreams. There is no ceiling on the sky so aim high. Things might not turn out exactly how you imagined, but keep adapting and striving and struggling - and again - always keep your friends. They are your safety net. A true friend has your interests at heart - here I'm not talking about acquaintances. And finally, step out and live beyond fear - Aud Torvingen does and you can too. '...No man is an island...' John Donne

  11. You don't have to stay anywhere forever---this applies to places, careers, relationships, beliefs, perspectives, et cetera.

    My all-time favourite is: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

  12. Liz's advice is right on. Also: take the AP tests in high school if you are going to go to college! & don't take any classes that start before 10 am. Try to test out of as many classes as you can & don't let anyone trick you into taking any pre-requisites that you don't need to.

    I have a chip on my shoulder about college registration maybe?

  13. The thing that struck me about Jobs' address was not 'Stay hungry, stay foolish' it was 'Don't settle.' That's pretty much how I like to live my life: not settling for what's 'good enough' but holding out for great. The times I've been most miserable have been when I stopped reaching and settled for good enough.

    Another thing that I wanted to share is: not everyone will like you and, eh, it doesn't matter. Don't organise your life around others' approval.

  14. I had a long list of stuff I was thinking of putting here, but then I thought about what it was like to be in 5th grade. Most of my stuff was for 2 or 3 years later.

    But I will say this.

    I like the don't settle - never settle.

    And words do matter. Actions matter. Some things you say and do you can never take back. So think before speaking/acting.

    You are enough. You deserve it -- everything. We all are born equally deserving.

    Look into your own eyes every morning in the mirror. Smile and say "I love you. You are awesome!" Turn to someone you see during the day, give them a high five and tell them, "you're awesome!"

    Cherish your friends and choose them carefully. The people you surround yourself with have a huge impact on your life.

    Give/recieve at least one hug a day.

  15. The Cool Girls had a great time today reading everyone's posts and discussing them.

    Thanks again!

  16. It was fun thinking about the Cool Girls.

    I don't think anyone mentioned reading. Maybe we all take it for granted.

    Read everything you can get your hands on.

  17. Dianne, you might also like to take a look at my MySpace blog where there have been substantive comments.

    jennifer, yes, reading--that's part of where I was going with the words matter stuff but I got distracted. I've learnt so much from, been reassured so often by books.

  18. My Latin teacher always said "Let flexibility ever be your watchword" and it's the first piece of advice I pass on to anyone.