I was recently sitting in a room with a group of strong and beautiful women, talking about some of the deepest hurts in our lives when one of them started to cry. The first words out of her mouth were "I told myself I wasn't going to be that girl". Everyone in the room knew exactly what she meant and my heart sank in my chest.
A few weeks later a friend and I were talking about her first day at a new job, how the office ordered lunch for their staff and she didn't want to mention that she does not eat gluten because she just didn't want to be "that girl".
If you are a woman, you have probably heard this term on more than one occasion, we throw it around often. "That girl" has become the poster child for too much. Too emotional, too loud, too needy, too picky. And I am convinced it has to stop. Every time we negatively refer to "that girl", there is an actual girl we are condemning. There is a woman who has chosen to be seen, to find her voice, to bring attention to an issue. And when we use that woman as a symbol of weakness, we are telling the world it is okay to walk all over us. We are communicating to ourselves, and other women, that it is better to stay small. Better to not make a scene or speak up.
When my friend began to cry, I was so proud of her. I also immediately began to empathize with her. Her pain was now, in a small way, our pain. She was inviting us into the messy, complicated corners of her life - what a sacred privilege! Yet in the moment all she could think was, "crap, I'm that girl". Being "that girl", the emotional girl, the crying girl, meant she was somehow less. At some point in our lives we began to believe the lie that it is only safe to express our emotions as long as they do not threaten someone else's comfort. I find myself frustrated and sad that the majority of women I know (wonderfully intelligent strong women), often keep quiet because they do not want to be seen as an inconvenience or a problem. When really it should be the exact opposite.
When we speak up, when we let the world know we exist and we have needs, we are empowering the women around us to do the same.
When we ugly cry or belly laugh or share our cobwebs, we are sending a message to the women in our lives. We are giving them permission to feel, to get loud, to be fully seen without apology. It is much easier to close our mouths, to stay small and remain quiet. Somedays it is risky to be "that girl". Not everyone will appreciate the raw edges of who you are. But we (especially women) desperately need to change the way we talk about "that girl". What would it look like if being "that girl" meant we were living brave and bold lives? How beautiful would it be if "that girl" was synonymous with courageous?
So I am reclaiming "that girl". Every time I let my voice be a lion, or my heart be a whisper, every time I hold my truth in my hands even when they shake, I will say "Wow, today I was that girl. I was seen and heard and unafraid to live in my skin. What a honor to slowly become her".