Cruising along the Brooklyn-Queens expressway this weekend, fingers poised to change the station from a poppy tune, I paused. I knew that raspy cute voice. Miley. I waited. I always like to hear what she’s up to.
I’m so into the song, I’m blogging about it. It’s called “The Climb.” It was released back in February, so I guess you can file this post under “Delayed Reactions” or “I’m Too Old Now to Be Hip.” Anyway, it’s got a very important message for all of us, especially girls, to hear.
The song is about the self-defeating voice we all hear at times inside our heads, and the importance of believing in yourself when you face a challenge. It’s about the reality that we sometimes fail, and that life is as much about the journey as it is crossing the finish line.
This is a crucial message for all of us, and especially girls, to hear. In my new book The Curse of the Good Girl, I document the struggle of girls to be flawless at everything they do. Not only is this a useless enterprise, but putting that kind of pressure on yourself invariably forces you to be nasty to yourself.
The Curse of the Good Girl also makes girls risk averse: they won’t want to take a leap if they know there’s a chance they might fail. Julia Loonin, Assistant Director of the Girls Leadership Institute, revealed how Good Girl pressure to be perfect derailed her during a high pressure college basketball game. There’s a reason we say, “No guts, no glory.” The Curse of the Good Girl wants girls to play it safe.
At GLI, we call the nasty voice inside our heads the “Gremlin Voice.” And we teach an antidote to the Gremlin – a Gremlin slayer, if you will – which we call the “BFF Voice.” That’s when you talk to yourself in the voice of your best friend; in other words, if your best friend lived inside your head and heard you saying terrible things, what would s/he say? The BFF voice pushes us through challenges with positive support. Read more about the BFF voice, and how to use it, in chapter 10 of The Curse of the Good Girl.
Here’s Miley’s Gremlin voice: I can almost see it/That dream I’m dreaming/But there’s a voice inside my head saying you’ll never reach it/Every step I’m taking/Every move I make feels lost with no direction/My faith is shaking.
And here’s Miley’s BFF voice: Got to keep my head held high….The struggles I’m facing/The chances I’m taking/Sometimes they might knock me down but no I’m not breaking….Just got to keep going,/And I, I got to be strong/Just keep pushing on.
Miley is also singing about the importance of screwing up. “Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose,” she says. It’s all about “the climb.”
If you’re an educator, here’s an informal, short lesson plan. Play the song to your kids (I’m envisioning grades 5-8). Ask them to summarize it in their own words. Then have a discussion with these questions:
1. Why is Miley singing this song? What is she trying to tell herself?
2. Miley talks about hearing a negative voice inside her head. Why do people talk to themselves in negative ways? What are some examples of negative thoughts you have heard people share, or that you have had?
3. Does thinking negative thoughts about yourself affect how you act? What might be an example?
Place “Agree” and “Disagree” cards (or just designate corners of your classroom as “Agree” and “Disagree” areas).
- Ask students: Imagine you’re playing a really important game at the sport you love most (or competing at something, if you don’t play sports). You’re not doing as well as you would like to. On one side of the field (or performance area), you have a coach shouting at you, telling you you’re doing terribly. She wants to win so badly, but she’s frustrated and angry. On the other side of the field, you have a coach shouting, but he’s encouraging you and clapping. If you would prefer the frustrated coach, go to the “Agree” side of the room. If you would prefer the encouraging coach, go to the “Disagree” side. Discuss in your small group why you chose this side of the room and explain your position to the class. Standing in the middle is okay for all answers.
- Read students the following lyric: “Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose.” Then ask students if they agree or disagree that it is important to lose sometimes. Students may stand in the middle of the room if they wish. Ask each group to come up with an explanation.
- Read another lyric: “Ain’t about how fast I get there/Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side/It’s the climb.” Ask a student to summarize this lyric in his own words, then have students move to an area of the room based on whether or not they agree with this statement. Ask each group to explain their position.
Lastly, teach kids the BFF voice, and brainstorm some examples of how it might work.