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Making Space for Girls

A common question that people often ask me is why I started Dandelion specifically for girls.

When I founded Dandelion, my vision was to offer a safe, warm space that provides every girl an opportunity for self-discovery through community and creation. I saw such a need for girls from all walks of life to have access to a space that recognizes their place in our world and the challenges they uniquely face.

The creative process, especially through dance and movement, is an incredible tool to support the healthy development of girls. However, I know that this link is not always clear, especially in a culture that does not yet fully appreciate the potential of the arts as a powerful learning tool.

So, over the next month, I am going to take the time to write a series of blogs outlining why I founded Dandelion specifically for girls, and how Dandelion’s programs support girls to unleash their full potential.

In a world that teaches girls to be people pleasers, they need a place to discover their own needs and wants.

All our kids – both boys and girls – need safe, loving places to explore who they are, come together in their humanness, discover their leadership and share their voices with the world. In fact, we ALL need this. Women and men. Girls and boys. However, I think in our current culture, there is a particular need for girls to have a safe space for this to unfold. Our girls will grow up to be the women of tomorrow, and therefore we need to address the ways in which our culture often holds girls back from being able to live their lives to the fullest.

Girls, in particular, are prone to being people pleasers. They often feel pressure to think of other’s needs before their own. Their parents might not even be the ones giving them these messages, but our culture sends this message clearly, both implicitly and explicitly, especially pop culture and social media. These messages have a huge impact on girls’ identity and ways of being in the world. They prevent girls from developing strong boundaries, and put them at risk of losing their own sense of self by putting the needs and wishes of other people before their own.

Thinking of the needs of others IS important. In fact, part of our program at Dandelion supports girls to consciously become aware of each other’s needs, as well as our community’s needs. However, girls must also have a place where they can discover their own needs. At Dandelion, we want girls to know and feel their own boundaries. We want our girls to be able to know their dreams, their desires, their wishes and their wants, so that they are conscious of their own boundaries. We want them to discover that they can meet their own needs and choose to meet the needs of others – it’s not either/or.

They need a safe place to discover where their boundaries lie.

A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming.
– Madeleine L’Engle

Teacher pushing wheelchair-bound childThis development of a strong sense of self needs a safe space to unfold. For girls at Dandelion, our creative processes allow them to discover themselves, to get an inside look at what they think and feel. This is where our focus on discovery through creating becomes invaluable: girls create and explore and create and explore through an iterative process that supports self-discovery.

They discover what they like, what they don’t like, what they think, and what they feel. They articulate this to each other in every class, and share their thoughts and opinions about how they think something should be created. They form their own opinions and voice these in a supportive environment. They come to know themselves. What they feel. What they want. And in the end, they discover themselves. They discover where they start and another person begins.

Senses TouchAnd through this process, boundaries develop. You can’t educate this into someone. Boundaries come from having a “self”. Boundaries are the result of an inside out process. You can’t be told by someone else how to develop and exercise your own boundaries. Rather, boundaries are the fruit of individuation – the gift of discovering oneself and becoming one’s own person.

At Dandelion, we offer girls the opportunity to discover their own boundaries and to individuate over time, until it becomes second nature. And this, in turn, supports girls to navigate their world from a place of being grounded in this knowledge. I know who I am. I know what I feel. I have the right to feel differently than others.

And they need a place to practice holding their boundaries.

Taught by our culture to please, it can be hard for a lot of girls to disappoint – even for them to say that they see something differently than another person.

It’s one thing to begin to know oneself and have a sense for your own goals, wishes and dreams. But it also helps to have a place where you can exercise your voice and disagree with others, and for it be OK. So, our teachers actively welcome our girls’ opinions – even (and in fact, especially!) when their students disagree with them.

For example, perhaps a girl is creating a dance and her teacher suggests a piece of music for her to try. Our teachers know how to look for signs that a girl might feel nervous to express her own feelings and preferences. It sometimes happens that a teacher realizes a student is afraid to hurt her feelings, and therefore is going along with a suggestion just to be polite.

Rather than burdening that student with a decision that she is not happy with, our teacher would invite her to express her opinion: “It seems like maybe you have another idea in your head. I think perhaps you might be worried about hurting my feelings. You have the right to like something different than me! I’d love to hear what is inside your mind. Tell me YOUR idea.

Our teachers always consciously and warmly invite our students’ thoughts, feelings, needs and opinions in this manner, so that they may practice voicing them in a safe and supportive place. In this way, girls learn not only to identify their own boundaries, but to communicate them to others, without feeling ashamed, guilty or nervous that they will not be liked just because they want or think something different.

So, why is it so important for girls to have a space to discover their boundaries?

Dancer Expressing ForgivenessBecause girls need a safe haven from social media and all that our culture tells them they should be. Because girls need a place to discover their true selves so that their boundaries can be felt and practiced, enabling them to reach their fullest potential. And because there is nothing more powerful than doing it in community – together.

And what happens if every girl reaches her full potential? Well, considering just over half the population is female – our entire world would change! Is this a crazy big dream of mine? Yup! But change always starts with something small – a small cluster of people doing what they think is needed to change the world.

Opening a space for girls to truly recognize and feel their capacity, and reach their fullest potential is my contribution to making our world a better place. It’s what I saw I could do – and now this work has gone far beyond me. Our cluster of people committed to this vision is growing. Hundreds of others are seeing the importance of providing this space to the girls in our community and beyond as well. And what an incredibly joyful and important way to create change in our community! In our culture, those two words – joyful and important – are not often seen together in the same sentence. But bringing joy to the things that are most important in this world is the Dandelion way.

Helping girls to develop and practise setting boundaries is one very important reason why I founded Dandelion – but there are so many more. I hope you will stay tuned for my next blog in this series.

Until then, I would love to hear your ideas about girls and boundaries in our comments section BELOW!

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