Anything I Wanna Be

I was honored to be asked by my lovely friend Krista Brandt to speak at the “Anything I Wanna Be” 2016 Encounter. This is a yearly event for about 50 middle grade and high school girls in the Silver Valley. Krista does a tremendous job organizing and running the encounter.

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Krista Brandt

After Krista introduced the event, I was the first speaker (no pressure, right?)

Anything You Want to Be Encounter closeupI pondered for quite a while what to say to these girls. In a lot of ways, I could relate to them. I grew up in southern Idaho, and much like these girls, we didn’t have a lot of extras. In some ways it was great, because I was forced to use my imagination to entertain myself. In other ways, not so much. I believe most girls struggle with the transition into their teenage years, and I was no exception with my frizzy hair, thick glasses and low self-esteem. In the end, this is the message I came up with that I believe definitely applies to us writers as well.

DARE TO DREAM: 7 Things Every Girl Should Know

1. Give Yourself Permission to Dream

There will always be people in your life putting limitations on what you can accomplish with your life. Sometimes it can be discouraging. Always listen to your inner voice that knows what you are capable better than anyone else. Let it be your guide, and always believe that great things are possible for you.

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2. Never Let Rejection Define You.

Let’s be honest. We will all be rejected at some point. Life is not about avoiding rejection, it’s about learning how to be resilient in the face of it. Bomb a test? Dumped by a boyfriend? Ditched by a friend? These things can be painful, but by learning to work through them and live fully despite the setbacks, we become stronger and more capable to handle the difficulties in life as adults.

I am impressed by Lindsey Sterling’s story. As a child, she longed to play violin and dance. Dance was out of the question due to a lack of funds, but her parents did scrape enough together to give her half a violin lesson (15 minutes) every other week. She worked hard, and the hard work paid off when she made it onto America’s Got Talent. She went into the contest thinking this was her big shot, so it’s no surprise she was devastated when she was eliminated and told her act wasn’t good enough to fill stadiums. Piers Morgan actually said her music sounded like “drowned rats being strangled!” That guy’s a charmer, I’ll tell ya.

Lindsey went on to build a successful YouTube career, all because she refused to listen to the critics and stuck to the vision of what she wanted to become. Which leads to our next point.

3. Be Your Own Unique You!

Just as people will try to limit you, they will also try to define you. They will tell you what you should look like, what you should wear, what grades you need to get, who you should hang out with, on and on. There is a lot of pressure to fit a certain mold. The problem is, while trying to fit someone else’s vision for you, sometimes you never discover who you want to be.

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Lindsey was under a lot of pressure – ditch the look, team up with a band, no one wants what you’re offering. But she believed otherwise and proved it by growing her YouTube channel to over 7 million strong and has built a career touring and releasing albums! It took guts and belief in herself enough to self release her albums and create her own tour without the help of a record label. By the time the record labels started paying attention, she had already built a successful career. Not only that, she had built it on her terms, without conforming to their ideas of how she ought to dress or perform. She says, “The only reason why I am successful is because I have stayed true to myself.”

4. Your Good Enough is Good Enough!

When I was a girl, I too often got the message that no matter what I did, my efforts wouldn’t be good enough. I was too hard on myself, and developed a bad habit of negative self talk that no one knew about. This led to years of off and on depression. I struggled with those destructive internal voices until I decided to kick the habit. It was hard, but by catching each negative thought or word from my myself or others and rejecting it, I was able to be so much more at peace with myself. I wish I’d known about this power technique as a girl and avoided the problems as I got older.

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5. Don’t Let Fear Get in the Way of Opportunities

This is one I still struggle with. When I was young, I liked to enter these chalk walk contests. I would sit there on the sidewalk for 3 or 4 hours and draw these elaborate drawings with chalk. I got pretty good at it, and even won a few contests. I remember the owner of an art gallery stopped by my drawing and gave me her card, telling me to call her. I was flattered by the invitation, but as the days passed and I looked at the card, the more I talked myself out of it. I made up all sorts of excuses in my head – she was just being nice, she wasn’t really interested, I was too young, etc. I wish I could tell you I plucked up the courage to talk to her and the cool things that resulted, but the truth was I never did talk to her. I’ll never know the opportunities I passed up.

The nice thing about life is it continues to give you opportunities even if you pass some up. I went on to get a degree in graphic design and (possibly as a result), I have never turned down a job that I had time for and felt good about. When forced to go out of my comfort zone and learn new skills, I did it. I have grown so much and learned so much in the process.

How does this apply to any life dream? Too often we unintentionally sabotage ourselves by talking ourselves out of doing the things that scare us. But it’s only by facing those fears head on that we grow and lose those fears.

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6. Surround Yourself with Supportive People.

Junior High can be rough. It’s even tougher when all your friends move away and you start the first day of 7th grade without any close friends. That’s what happened to me. Unfortunately, girls can be pretty cruel at that age. There were a group of them that would gather in a circle and talk and laugh together. One time they called me over, and I thought, yes, this is my moment. As I approached them, they said, “Never mind” and laughed at my reaction. I felt crushed at their rejection. Looking back, I’m sure these girls just thought they were being funny and didn’t realize how devastating their actions were for me. I challenged the girls to always approach others with kindness. It is so easy to do, and it makes such a huge difference! The story ends happy. Bit by bit, I gained a few friends. Eighth grade got a little better. High School was even a little better. But I never forgot how this felt, and purposefully chose friends that wouldn’t have a friend without me. We were very loyal to each other, and I am still friends with them today!

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7. You are Worthy of Being Loved Because You Are!

This on is related to #4 – your good enough is good enough. Sometimes the people in our lives withhold love because they aren’t pleased with our actions or inadequacies. This is sad, because it can sometimes make us feel our worthiness to be loved is based on our actions. I remember a time when I had got into a fight and was feeling low and unloveable. I sat on my bed and prayed, “God, are you even there? Do you know who I am?” And God answered. “I know who you are.” “Then why don’t have feel valuable or worth loving?” I was immersed in a powerful and warm feeling of pure love. Then came the profound message. “Daughter, there is nothing you can ever do, or ever say, or ever have done to you that would make me stop loving you. You are worthy of being loved because you are!” I have never forgotten what this feels like, and when I am tempted to be judgmental or unkind, I try to remember this moment and embrace the divine love that exists in all of us.

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So there you have it – 7 things every girl (and everyone really) should know! <3

I can’t resist sharing these pictures of the gorgeous girls who won books in the giveaway.

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Comments

  1. says

    This is great Sarah – I’m sure you’ve impacted these young women in ways you can’t imagine.

    As for Piers Morgan… I wish they’d get rid of that type of talent contest. It’s so damaging for many of the contestants, who really have no idea what they are getting themselves into!

    • says

      Thanks for your comment Ollie. I agree – if you’re going to have a contest, make it a nurturing experience, not a discouraging one. How many gifted young people wouldn’t continue after such a scathing put-down? We are missing out on too many unique voices because of unneeded criticism. No one knows what you are capable of except you.

  2. Ruth Hansen says

    I loved this whole post! What a great opportunity for those girls and your message was just perfect – all the things that every middle age girl needs to hear. Loved it! I wish I had an opportunity to attend something like this at that really hard middle school age.

    I especially love how you encouraged the girls to reach out with kindness. I also appreciated the personal experiences you shared about that. I remember being that age and the feelings of insecurity that come from being treated badly. I also see that happening to my girls. I agree that often those “mean” girls just don’t know what it feels like to be on the receiving end. Those who experience it, while it is hard and I would never wish it on anyone, are able to develop empathy and will be much farther ahead in the ability to develop and hold onto meaningful relationships.

    I also loved all the Lindsey Sterling stories. She is such a fun, bright, colorful character. It is fabulous that she has been able to reach for her dreams and be successful while being true to herself. What a great example!

    Thanks for sharing Sarah – and thanks for inspiring those girls – you are amazing!

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