Instagram Algorithm

Instagram Algorithm

Instagram Algorithm for Writers

By Deanna M Ramirez

Follower hide-and-seek.  Only ten percent of followers see your posts.  10%! Thanks to the Instagram (which includes Facebook) algorithm.

I get 2% of likes to my number of followers.   This makes me believe less than 10% of my followers see my posts in their feed.  The alternative explanation is that my posts did not capture my followers’ attention.  Therefore, not giving any likes

What can I do to improve this?  How can I get more followers to see my posts?  If you research the Internet, these same general bullet points turn up to these questions: 

  • Better photo quality
  • Publish consistent stories
  • Publish video content
  • Go live, and often
  • Answer DM’s
  • Craft better captions – add a call to action or question.
  • Have a contest or giveaway
  • Refine hashtag usage
  • Post when your followers are online
  • Avoid shadowban hashtags

I’ll share what I’ve learned on my Instagram journey from the perspective of an author and poet. 

Instagram’s algorithm is unfavorable to words.

Did you know Instagram is unfavorable to words? When I created my Instagram account to feature my written work, I did not understand this! 

In the beginning, it didn’t matter to me. I used my poetry account as a small creative outlet.  I wasn’t thinking in terms of “likes” and “follows”. But once I took myself seriously as a writer, I looked at my use of social media differently. 

I’ll address this unfavorable word topic below. But first…

Do you take writing seriously?

Do you call yourself a writer? A poet? An author?

If your answer to any of those questions is yes, GOOD!  If it is not, why? Now, if writing is your hobby, then worrying about followers and likes is irrelevant and this article might not be for you.

However, if you care about this topic.  If you want people to read what you write, you must resolve these issues. Admit to yourself that you’re a writer. Admit you’re a poet. Say it out loud. Tell someone. It’s okay. 

Instagram Algorithm for writers.  Say it out loud. You are a writer!

Here’s a little secret – the people you think will judge you, don’t! The support surprised me when I told friends and family about my poetry and writing. You aren’t alone in hiding from shame. 

You’re in good company.

This topic came up at a writers’ conference I attended. So many people admitted to hiding it. A keynote speaker encouraged everyone to say it out loud. I am a writer.

It was the best advice! I had already outed myself as a writer. But it affirmed in my heart something I had wanted to shout over Instagram, Admit what and who you are! Be proud! Embrace it!   

Okay, now that you’ve admitted you’re a writer. Now, what?  One of my college professors said, “You must market yourself as a writer.”  

Writers must market themselves.

My professor was a published author who wrote an award-winning children’s book. She taught my Professional Writing class that writing success was our responsibility. 

Unfortunately, I took this course prior to Facebook and Instagram.  Authors then lacked concern for social media. Social media was irrelevant for writers then.  

Swipe worthy marketing.

Today our world is different.  The business of writing looks different.  More competitive than ever. With the reader’s attention distracted by other, new stimuli offered immediately at their fingertips.  People favor fast fulfillment.  They want posts impressing them in ten seconds or less.  

This century’s writers must capture readers in a finger swipe.  As I write more on each point, keep this in mind. Ten seconds.  A finger swipe

Instagram algorithm.  Thirty seconds. A finger swipe.

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Quality matters. 

Poor quality, spelling and grammar errors, and anything visually displeasing turns off fast eyes scanning an Instagram feed.

Use a spellcheck! Capitalize. I see a wave of people using lowercase EVERYTHING. Please, for the love of words, cut it out!

This is a fad that will fade, then die. As it should. It’s lazy. If your art is words, become a master of words.  You can’t move from apprentice to master when you’re too lazy to capitalize and use proper grammar.  

Now, I didn’t say perfect grammar.  No one is perfect. Books make it to store shelves with mistakes in them.  But this is the exception, not the rule. Accidents happen. People forgive happy little accidents. (Side thought: Could I become the Bob Ross of writing? “Let’s make this lowercase i into an I. There, now that’s better.”)

Help abounds.

Feeling rusty? That’s okay. There are tools to help you. We’re all using them!

Google Docs corrects your spelling and grammar for free.  I use ProWritingAid.  It made revising my novel possible. ProWritingAid catches spelling errors. It flags repeat words, or if the writers used too many glue words. It catches passive voice versus active voice. It’s freaking amazing.

Using ProWritingAid is like taking a refresher English course. In fact, I’m using it to write this article.

Highly recommend ProWritingAid, or Grammarly.  Both offer free services. Use their free grammar checks. Try both free. I heard multiple authors say they use both during the revision process at my last writers’ conference.

This post was proofread by Grammarly

I promise these resources will help you become a better writer. Remain a student of your craft and it will shine through your words.

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Have out-of-focus posts turned you off?  I’ve read well-crafted poems I didn’t feature on @evepoetrygroup because the words were fuzzy.  Well written but “blah” to the eye. You can’t do that on Instagram and expect follower growth. For good reason, too.  

It’s all about aesthetic these days.

Don’t know how to make eye-catching, beautiful posts? Good news! You don’t have to be a graphic designer and a great writer. Use apps. They’re awesome. They make life easier.

My recommendation is Canva.  You can use Canva for free. Upgrading to Pro opens access to premium gorgeous fonts and stock photos.  But again, you’d do just fine with the free version too.

Pick a look for your feed. Brand yourself. If you create a look and feel and decide you hate it, change it. That’s okay too. I’ve gone through a few phases of testing different looks.

Your brand.

Creating a brand is a process. You, the writer, have a brand. Make it look and feel you. Your brand is the message you wish to send. It should look the way you want your audience to feel.

Test things out. Change your mind. Eventually you’ll find your aesthetic. Your brand.

Do this, and people will follow you. They’ll like your posts more often. Because they will instantly recognize your post in their feed from your branding. It will happen. You’ll get there.

Instagram algorithm for writers.

How often do you post? 

Consistent posts are important for account growth. Anywhere from one to four posts per day are okay. Too many posts will flag you as spam.

Find a happy number that works with your schedule. There is no magic number of posts. Bummer, right? Consistency is key. Not posting all day long.

People desire reliable Instagram accounts that post consistent, quality material. Bottom line, yo! (Sorry, on a Breaking Bad kick ever since El Camino came out.)

Instagram algorithm for writers.  Sorry, on a breaking bad kick!

The what. Words, Words, Too Many Words.

More words on an Instagram post (or caption) means fewer likes. That’s it. The short and sweet. And it sours your tongue, right?

How do writers deal with it? Keep reading. This may cause debate. But if you want to be a professional writer, you need to throw away any purist notions you have about sharing your work on social media.

First thing to understand: They created Instagram for people to share photographs. It has a simple scroll feature for this purpose. This feature, by design, is unfavorable to posts filled with words.

The why. Why do they hate my words?

Casual scrolling is lazy. Reading is work. Casual scrolling and reading a post, then reading the long caption that goes along with it, doesn’t mesh super well.

Avid readers (who read books, not Instagram posts) or your supportive writer friends read your longish posts. However, you’re not capturing followers in droves because you’re not thinking of your audience’s mindset.

Instagram algorithm for writers. Know your audience.

The who. Know your audience.

Mothers, fathers, teenagers, baristas, foodies, the Kardashian’s, white collar business men looking for love, every race, religion, and creed. Just about every type of human is on social media. Except people with something to hide. But I digress. That’ll be a different, festive article.

Your audience is a beautiful mix of people who log on social media for moments of escapism.

They check Instagram in the bathroom at work. Yeah, that’s right. They read your flowery sonnet squatting on the toilet. Sitting in traffic (not safe, but you people do it!). Social media checks occur in line at the grocery store or in a doctor’s waiting room.

Short wisps of time. That is your audience’s mindset.

Make your follower smile in the short 30-seconds you have their attention. Make them giggle. Embarrass them while they wait in line at Starbucks. Cause them to snort with laughter from the brilliant photo you picked to illustrate your short narrative.

Keep it brief. Little word appetizers. Teasers. The happy hour menu. Make them want to stay for dinner. Now I’m getting ahead of myself.

The How.

Create posts incorporating everything mentioned above. If your poem is long, include a portion of your poem in the post. Ensure the stanza or portion you include displays in high resolution.

The post should be crisp and clear. Dazzle the eyes. Use resources like Canva to do it.

Instagram algorithm. Dazzle them.

Include the full poem in the post’s caption or guide people to your website for the full read. Use the post as a teaser. But be sure the post itself is complete. It should stand on its own.

Break it down.

It’s okay if they read, like and scroll on. A few dazzling nibbles later, the reader will read further. They’ll investigate your profile.

Using the caption for the full poem can be tricky. Someone may love a post but scares off by a lengthy caption. Short attention spans. Remember, the mindsets of brilliant people changes for social media.

Using Instagram’s carousel option works too. Breakdown your writing into two or three images for one post.

Use high-resolution graphics and smaller fonts. Poems appear more consumable to the eyes. It’s strange, yes. But it worked for me on my post shown below.

Instagram Algorithm

If concise wording is key in both post and caption, then a website is even more important for writers. Use social media to draw fans of your writing to your website.

Use your own judgement regarding the format you use. I’m leaning toward shorter posts and non-wordy captions and directing my followers to read my website content. (Except for contests, etc. That’s different.)

If you build it, they will come.

Don’t have a website? Why not? These days it’s super easy to slap a blog together.

Use your website to display your long form poetry. Then you can play around as much as you like. It’s your dang website! Instagram can’t tell you what to do there!

Plus, you can link all your social media channels to your website to solidify your brand.

Believe me, if I can start a website, so can you. Weebly is a great option.

Find your domain and create your site at Weebly.com!

You can’t buy popularity on Insta.

Many sources recommend paid promotions through Instagram when I researched increasing post reach. So I tried this theory. A theory that claims paying for promotions increases reach on the algorithm because it reassures Instagram that you’re not a bot. That you don’t sketchy things to gain likes or followers.

Instagram cracked down on scandalous tactics people use. Buying likes and followers: Don’t do it. Accounts disappeared in the past six months because of Instagram’s crackdown on fake likes and followers. Did you notice it too?

Instagram algorithm. Don't buy popularity!

Many legit accounts (like mine and yours) suffer because people shirked the system. They bought social media popularity. It didn’t work out for them. Because of it, the rest of us must work CRAZY HARD for visibility. Changes Instagram implemented reduced our post exposure.

Paid Promotions

The process. First, I selected a post of mine to promote to test the theory mentioned above. Next, I set up the post and selected my target audience. I recommend picking your target audience versus letting Instagram do it for you.

In selecting my audience, I honed in on where I needed growth most. I picked locations where I wanted exposure. After making my selections, my potential reach was at 83,000,000. That’s huge!

Finally, they have you pick your budget and duration. I picked two days and ten dollars for the budget. Doing so reduced my reach. By a lot. Instagram will show you the number of reach in a range based on budget and duration.

It makes sense. Instagram provides instructions in their Help section, if you need them.

Instagram Algorithm.  They are in control.

This process added to my awareness of the amount of control Instagram has on who sees our posts. If I pay more, they let more people see my posts. The more you spend, the more exposure they let you have. Otherwise, screw you, Eve Poetry! (Again, I digress.)

Once the promotion began, I received an email from Facebook. In fact, I received three emails from three different posts that I paid Instagram to promote.

The Instagram Rub

And by rub, I mean a real gnarly carpet burn. They informed me, “your image contains too much text”. In the subject line of one email, ” Your Ad Is Not Delivering.”

I’ve included screenshots of these emails below for your viewing pleasure.

Instagram Algorithm
Email received after trying Instagram promotion.

After the above promotion, I experimented with different text styles, font size, and the number of words. Adjusting the standards in ways I thought would please Instagram. Then I received another email.

Second email received from Facebook.

Want to know the worst part? Instagram won’t allow you to edit a post once promoted. Facebook emails telling you to fix the problem. Then Instagram won’t let you. Even after the promotion is over, you can’t edit the dang post!

On both posts, I opted to delete the promotion. Because I couldn’t edit my post. If I can’t “fix the problem” as instructed, I won’t waste my money.

Instagram (Facebook) blamed me, a writer promoting my art form, for using too much of my art in my post. Ultimately, they blame the user to create an excuse for the debacle that is the algorithm. The algorithm controls viewership. It’s censorship. They censor who sees what.

Censorship in disguise.

In saying this, I realize there are reasons for their censorship. Many iterations of the algorithm were to protect people from harm or bullying. This is important. I respect safety. Online bullying is unacceptable. No one should be unsafe on social media.

Using an algorithm to censor artists is not the answer either. Limiting how many people see our posts is censorship. They mask their censorship with their algorithm. That sucks. Nothing we can do about it but quit Instagram or learn how to use this tool, obstacles and all.

Instagram Algorithm censorship.

The obstacle is invisible, and writers have it worst!

The transition from what you’ve been doing to implementing any suggestions I’ve made requires patience. Be patient with yourself. Don’t try everything all at once. Practice self care. It’s frustrating. So be kind to you.

Take it in small bites. Just like the saying, how does a mouse eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Try small changes and see if your likes increase or decrease. If they increase, keep doing it! If you don’t see improvement, adjust something. Small increments.

Did you lose likes? Something didn’t work the way you hoped? It’s not a failure. Don’t think you failed by trying something new.

Instagram algorithm.  Try and try again.

Even recently, I’ve tried new things that failed. I expect it. I lick my wounds and try again. Licking wounds is gross, so I get a little better with each new attempt.

Unless you explode overnight and become the next Atticus, it’s a process. I have posts that bomb. I’m in a process. Still finding my groove for Eve Poetry on Instagram.

Comfort zones are danger zones.

Use Instagram Live. It’s another layer of exposure. All video features for Instagram help you increase reach. If you hate Lives, then make appearances through your Instagram story.

Don’t use Insta Stories only to share your posts. Change it up. Show a piece of your life. Connect with your followers. Be a real person. People want a connection.

Connection matters.

Recently, I saw Margaret Atwood on stage. I’m a huge fan of The Handmaid’s Tale. However, once I saw her live in person, I became enraptured.

My fan status jumped up a huge notch seeing and hearing her discuss her life and her work. She is wonderful. She was wholly herself.

My husband wasn’t a fan, but he turned to me fifteen minutes into her interview and said, “I want her to be my grandma!” This is a testament (pun intended) to the importance of connection.

What it’s all about.

Seeing someone. Hearing a voice. It creates a real connection. Connection creates real followers. Real followers create real engagement. Real engagement creates authentic accounts with real growth. Strive for this.

Comment with Questions

Don’t fear my dear, there will be more of these. This is long enough, yet there is still so much I need to tell you!

If I left something out, comment and I’ll include it in my next article! Thanks for reading. Please let me know if this helped. If you found it helpful, please share it!

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E-Books

E-Books

A conspiracy theory?

I’ve never been a big conspiracy theorist, but lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and this thought has been on my mind: we are a society addicted to electronics and wireless connections.

Okay, Deanna, tell me something new, right? But how easy would it be for a government to pull the switch? Remove power. Remove connection. How many would lose access to their news, knowledge resources, and books?

Luckily, I’ve always been partial to the touch, smell, and aesthetic of books. Call me a book ‘purest’. I like to feel them in my hands as I read, sans screen. When done reading, I love to save them on shelves, share them with friends. Would you have books if you lost power today? Have you ever thought about it? ⠀

It’s difficult for me not to imagine it after reading tweets or broadcasts about some insane, real thing happening in my country.⠀

Okay. Maybe there’s been too much binge watching of #handmaidstale between reading and writing. 🙃⠀

Deanna Ramirez

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Champion, a poem

Champion a poem

Champion, a poem by Deanna Ramirez

The fact that you're still trying
when others would've given up by now
It's the mark of a champion
You're doing it
Keep at it, but first - take a bow!

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Light, a poem

Light, a poem

A poem by Deanna M Ramirez

Light splays across a wet canvas
reflecting more clearly than a mirror
Detail of my past flume trails
of refracted imagery as I walk nearer

Lumen in paramount fill the cavity
of this cave that I roam
A dream within a distant dream
of my fluorescent catacomb

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Make Believe

Make Believe

Poetry by Deanna M Ramirez

Funny how we make believe 
with ease when we are nine or three
Too soon do we forget this gift
Outgrow our magic mind too swift
Imagination should be used
by all from one to 102
It's not too late for you to try
Fairy dust off dreams and make them fly

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Unemployed for the Holidays

Unemployed for the holidays

Just before the holidays in 2017, I took a paid day off from work to spend time with my daughters. The plan: to enjoy quality time with my girls with a trip to the pumpkin patch. I set aside my work phone and made a point not to check it until later in the afternoon. I enjoyed a much-needed beautiful fall day with my lovely girls.

When I went to check my work phone later that day, the lock screen was filled with text messages and missed calls. My manager was trying to reach me, his voicemail message urgently requested I return his call. It turned out that he was desperately trying to reach me before I heard the bad news (no pun intended) on television.

His voice was calm yet heavy with the unpleasant task of being the bearer of bad news. “Our company is closing its doors permanently. Everyone is being laid off.” My stomach fell out from underneath me. Later that week I would experience my first ulcer. I received a formal letter with a date of my last day of work. I would be on unemployment before Thanksgiving.

As if I didn’t already know how unstable life could be, this experience validated the fact that there are so many things in life that are out of your control. So, I accepted my situation, and began to quickly focus on things that were within my control.

I replaced sinking self-pity with empathy, and extended an offer of help to the other 200 employees floating in the same large boat with me. Many of my fellow laid-off employees had worked at the same employer for 10 to 20-plus years. Most did not have a LinkedIn account, and many needed a resume. I offered my writing services to any who wanted help writing a resume. I must have created at least 20. Luckily the local unemployment office had resume writing resources, because I’m quite sure I would have hit resume-writing burnout before long.

I went through the cumbersome unemployment process, and simultaneously began the job hunt. I would submit easily a dozen resumes per day. Applying to jobs became my full-time job. I used every job search site, had several phone interviews, then in-person interviews, and accepted a new gig just before Christmas.

I would not say my way is the best way. Looking back, I wish I did not put so much pressure on myself. So while I give the below advice, I will preface it with this: BREATHE, and take it one day at a time. Do not stress yourself out. It will not serve you well and it could lead to making a poor decision. You will get through this and you will find the right job in the right time. So again, Breathe.

Last year’s holiday season taught me a great deal. I am not in the habit of taking anything for granted, but with respect to my job, I have a few quick points I would like to make for ANYONE else out there who may be facing a similar circumstance.

1. Always be prepared.

Do not get complacent at your job. It’s always a GREAT idea to keep your resume up-to-date. It is good practice to slap on a few descriptive bullet points to your latest resume with key functions you are doing at your job right now. Jot down noteworthy moments where you shine. It is so difficult to remember those magical moments when you are putting yourself on the spot 3 or 5 or 10 years later. Keep a word doc or excel spreadsheet squirreled away with a catalog of bullet points – keep it current- you will thank yourself later on.

2. Create a LinkedIn Profile.

If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, you are missing out on one of the best, free networking applications on the internet. Create a profile on LinkedIn and then begin looking for old colleagues, classmates, friends, and start connecting with all of them.

If you already have a LinkedIn (LI) account and it’s sitting dormant somewhere on the web, stop what you are doing, access your account, and blow the dust off of it. You need to beef up your LI profile, stat. You can do this with three key things: connecting (with people you worked with, went to school with, or did business with at any level), update your employment details on your profile (this is a living resume), and asking colleagues and friends for endorsements. Endorsements are super helpful- so don’t be bashful. It doesn’t hurt to endorse others as well- many will reciprocate the kindness. If you have questions about ANY of this- please leave them in the comments section. I will respond to all of them.

3. Throw a WIDE net!

Right now there are so many online resources to apply for jobs. I am partial to LinkedIn due the success I’ve experienced. I like the ease of their user interface, and how my profile doubles as a online portfolio. With all of that said, I encourage you to use ALL the websites: Indeed, Monster, Craigslist (with caution), and ask friends or colleagues for their recommendations or sites of choice.

Additionally, do your homework on all potential employers. Glassdoor is a GREAT resource for this. I wish I knew about Glassdoor years ago. It would have saved me from working at a very toxic employer. Glassdoor allows people to provide anonymous feedback about their employer. You can learn about salaries, benefits, the interview process, and specific complaints or praises.

I know this blog post barely scratches the surface with regards to unemployment. If you are finding yourself out of work right now, please know you have resources. If you are a veteran in need of work, there are so may organizations centered on placing veterans in jobs. I will be providing some links to resources below. PLEASE leave a comment if you have any questions for me! I am happy to answer questions about my unemployment experience and how I found my job quickly after being laid off last year.

Ironically, this blog post is inspired by the unsteady climate of my current employer. I just hit my 1-year mark and in the last few weeks my employer has laid off several people, and “partially” laid off the remainder. Odd, right? Apparently it’s a thing. Hourly employees have been informed they can only work 32 hours, and they will get unemployment for the 8 hours they do not work. As I am a salary employee they could not reduce me to 32-hours per week, so instead, I received a 10% pay cut. Still, I’m incredibly grateful to have a job.

Much love, Eve Poetry

Some helpful websites: 

State of Oregon: Employment resources

LinkedIn 101 – How to use LinkedIn for Beginners (Great article)

Jobs for Veterans: Recruit Military

VA Employment Assistance

VetJobs

Glassdoor- Check out your potential employer.

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Five Things to Stop Saying to Girls

Five Things to Stop Saying to Girls

I often find myself reflecting on things I need to change about myself. These “things” are typically mindset issues. Years and years of childhood lessons that contradict how I need to think in order to be successful. As I go through this personal life dilemma, I catch myself saying things to my daughters that cause me to stop in my own tracks and ask the question, ‘Why am I saying this?’.

I want to pass on wisdom to my daughters, as it is my job as their mother to nurture them and prepare them for their future. However, I am undergoing a retraining of sorts. Throwing out old files from my brain that I deem ‘no longer valid’. Removing the spam files maliciously filed under the educational category, ‘things said to girls but never said to boys’. I am approaching my daughters with a refreshing perspective that I hope will be useful to other parents.

If you feel bogged down with files of spam in your brain, downloaded by generations of skewed parenting advise, this post if for you.

1. “The only thing that matters is what’s on the inside.”

Although I agree with the sentiment behind this statement, young girls internalize this in ways that can be unhelpful. Also, it’s not true. For many people in this world, it is not the only thing that matters. Blanket statements like this one leave big, confusing gaps left open to interpretation.

If my daughter comes to me discouraged, if she is feeling self-conscious and down about her looks or how she is perceived, I aim to provide her with concise feedback. I first ask questions to draw out her “why’s”. I then use statements that are TRUE about her character, talent, AND looks.

“Let’s talk about what is true about you: you are a talented dancer. You work so hard and practice every day.” “I see how you’ve improved on your turns.” “You are compassionate and think about others [insert specific instance of compassion]”. “You balance school, dance, and friendships so well, I’m so proud of your ability to handle these things with such care.”

The truth is that the things that matter are defined by each individual person. We can do our best to impose our values on our children, but they are exposed to a whole world mixed up with differing worldviews. Unless you keep your daughter in a bubble, and trust me, I wish I could do that too, you need to address the fact that people do value what’s on the outside too.

Our daughter’s do not benefit from using blanket statements or lies. They do benefit from honest discussion.

The law of attraction becomes a relevant topic earlier than us parents want to believe. I never wanted to shave my legs nor did I worry about the fact that I had hairy legs until a classmate of mine declared, ‘ewwww, you need to shave your legs!’ during a round of kickball when I was in the 6th grade. I remember exactly where I was standing, where he was crouched down, the heat moving up my face, and the conversation I had immediately when I got home from school that day. My exterior mattered that day. Luckily, I had a parent that valued my emotions and decided I was old enough to learn how to shave my legs.

I believe in the importance of teaching our daughters to value inner beauty above outer beauty.  I make a point to draw the correlation between inner beauty and how this trait will attract good, healthy people into your life.  The conversation doesn’t stop there. I also teach them how to properly care for their bodies: good hygiene, how to apply make up, skin care tips, hair care tips, the importance of exercise and staying active, eating healthy, drink enough water, and most importantly: I am their biggest advocate and fan.

2. “Don’t be full of yourself.”

I can hear it now. Well-meaning adult women in my life, making this, and other similar statements, in hopes that I would not grow up to be a self-absorbed diva. The biggest issue with this particular statement, is that it is almost never followed by statements that empower little girls.

Generations of adults have cycled a concept that little girls should be the most humble, proper little beings. Smile for the camera, but don’t think your all that and a bag of chips. Wear this cute little dress, but don’t show off.

I recall an instance of two adult women talking when I was a teenager. These women were discussing a female cousin of mine; retelling a story from when she was a toddler. The toddler approached the two women and declared, “I’m cute!”. They both looked at her, and one recalls the other women stating, “No you’re not!”.  The women giggled as they shared this story, but it made me sad and confused as a teenager. I thought of my little cousin, all dressed up, feeling pretty, and it made a connection for me between that story, and what I knew then of her low self-esteem. A misguided attempt to keep a little girl from being too full of herself. Words that made wound, that would later become a woman’s scar and inner obstacle.

Why do we value young boys acting and speaking with certainty and confidence when talking about themselves, yet discourage it with girls?

If we focus on building up strong, confident girls; we will get strong, confident women. Let’s focus on BUILDING. Let’s stop breaking girls down.

3. “Don’t act vain/cocky.”

Of the items on my list, this ranks at the top of the list for things we do not systemically say to boys, yet say to girls. I find myself struggling to navigate this with my own teenage daughter.

This topic overlaps a bit with statement #2. The distinction is that this statement is more about performance and less about looks or physical identity.

As a mother of three, I have observed different approaches to motivating good performance. Some coaches use fear. Some use strict rules and guidelines. Some use only positive reinforcement. Regardless of the approach to mentor, coach, teach; please stop saying things like, “Don’t be cocky, just because we won the competition last week, does not mean we will win this week.” “Do not get out there and be over-confident, just focus and do your best.” I have heard so many “Just because … doesn’t mean..” statements lately, that it was a key motivator to write this.

These statements do NOTHING to prepare a young girl for battle. If she is stepping out into a field, arena, or onto a stage, the LAST thing she needs to hear is, “Don’t be over-confident”. How many movies include this statement as part of a motivational speech? Could you imagine Denzel saying, ‘Don’t be too cocky!” before his football team entered the arena for the playoff game? What if instead Braveheart shouted, “Just because we won the battle last week, does not mean we shall win today!!”, then shows scene of bloody battle? You simply do not hear men saying these types of statements to other men.

I have heard these statements by coaches and team captains. I have heard them said right before a performance at a dance competition. And guess what? The results suck.

If you are trying to discourage your girls, or get in their heads to screw them up, then by all means, keep using that technique. Or maybe, just MAYBE, you try something new.

Let’s try doing the opposite. “Okay girls, I want you to visualize success. You WILL win, you will perform each move to perfection”. “You ARE the talented dancers and have worked so hard for this very day, get out there and show them what champions look like.” “Be confident! Be cocky!” I believe their ability to visualize success may actually be a success.

You can teach girls to be confident without it being at the expense of others. You can build them up to be champions and good sports. They have a better chance of success if you hype them up once you’ve given them the training they need, and they put in the hard work required to succeed. Give girls permission to be GREAT. This is not a gender-specific concept. Everyone should be inspired to greatness if they are willing to do the work, and practice, practice, practice. Oh, and there is the talent thing too. Not everyone was born to be an opera singer. So, refer to #1, and speak honestly with your girl about her talents.

4. “You don’t need a man to be happy.”

While women do not require a significant other, they may want, or even yearn for love and companionship one day.

Humans, from infancy, need touch and nurturing. The very touch of a mother has a direct correlation to an infant’s growth and development. It’s an innate need, love.

Instead of harping on girls to be strong, independent women who don’t need a man. Let’s first raise them and build them up as strong, self-aware girls. Engage in open communication with our strong, young girls to discuss the types of things they value in a partner. Model healthy relationships and give them something to aspire to.

Whether we (parents) like it or not, our girls will eventually discover “love”. We cannot swipe it away with a blanket statement that undervalues human connection. Wanting a life partner does not make you weak. Opening your heart to love is characteristic of one who has strength and courage. I want my daughters to know themselves, value themselves, and in doing so, find the person in this world that values exactly that.

I’ve been through divorce. It was the worst experience, and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.  I worried, and still worry, about the impacts of the divorce on my children. I’ve witnessed the fallout. It’s been many years now, so most of it is behind us. My children had a front-row seat to ‘what happens when love goes bad’.

Through open communication and years of healing, I’m happy to say they all have a healthy perspective on love. I have witnessed evidence of that in each of them. I spent years as a single mother. I felt a pull and need to have companionship and love, but I did not rush into another marriage. When I did get re-married, it was done thoughtfully, and my children were just as happy and excited for the new chapter as I was. Now my children can observe a healthy marriage, and I am so grateful.

Let us not make the desire for companionship or love, a weakness.

Our girls can have it all.

5. “You need to learn how to love yourself” (too little, too late)

How exactly do I do that? All I have heard throughout my entire life is that I need to be humble, quiet, kind, meek, not cocky, not full of myself, not too loud, don’t laugh like that, don’t stand like this, don’t talk about that, and the list goes on.

Pop culture teaches girls the reverse of this statement. Marketing campaigns splash ideal images of women absolutely everywhere. You cannot go anywhere without seeing a magazine, billboard, poster, or screen of any sort with the image of an airbrushed model sporting the ‘look of the week’. Young girls see, “look at this, buy this, copy that, this is the look you must aspire to, but don’t worry, next week it will be different, and you’ll never catch up.”

Then there are the fad diets. A new diet craze pops up every month.  Young girls are filled with junk, processed foods made readily available at a bargain price, and then brainwashed on the latest and greatest way to lose 10 lbs.

And then after all of that, the life coaches and gurus come out of the woodwork. “Self love, y’all!” “All you need do is love… yourself!”. They are feeding off the abundance of unhappiness and discontent that our culture perpetuates.

It is a symptom of a broken world, with a select elite calling the shots and making the rules. We adults need to re-program our minds in order to prepare our girls for this crazy world. We need to stop uttering words and statements thoughtlessly. Let us be mindful about each thing we teach our girls. If we do this, they will never need to be trained to love themselves, they will do so naturally.

We can all take part in breaking the cycle. This blog post barely scratches the surface on a much greater problem. Women are systematically undervalued in most of the world. They are marginalized, objectified, and abused. The statistics are out there: do your research, and please be sure to check your sources. You can help by starting in your home. Keep open communication; initiate conversations and ask her questions. And those things that your mother told you? Take five to reflect before you regurgitate those same words to your young.  It is not a perfect process, and we will still make those parental blunders we will pay for later. The fact that you are trying is that thing that makes a different. It will take us that much closer to empowering young girls in the same manner we empower our young boys.

Please subscribe to follow my blog! Please also share in the comments: What are statements you received as a children that stuck with you? Have you said something that stopped you in your tracks, and forced you to reflect? I would love to hear from you!

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