Want to Empower Women and Girls? The Four Words You Need to Be Saying

How many times have you heard the phrase, "Don't tell girls she's pretty. Tell her she's pretty smart. Pretty brave. Pretty something."

I don't disagree with that mantra. I feel blessed that my parents walked the tightrope of raising daughters who were confident in their appearance without valuing looks over books. Recently, though, it hit me. There's an empowering compliment that, in my mind, women and girls aren't receiving enough. What are four little words more women need to hear?

Want to Empower Women and Girls? The Four Words You Need to Be Saying

You are so strong

Sometimes you mean it literally. One of my favorite compliments ever was from a yoga instructor at my regular studio in California. I'd just finished another killer class of hers; my shirt was soaked with sweat and my face was bright red. As I was leaving, though, she said, "You may be small, but you're strong, girl. Keep it up!"!

Her words have stuck with me for over a year now, and they never fail to make me smile. Because, sure, some women might like hearing that they're looking "thin." I certainly don't mind being called "beautiful," especially by someone I love. But there's something extra special about your physical strength - whether spurred by dedication to the gym or the stubborn determination to hold crow pose even as your arms are shaking - being recognized

Want to Empower Women and Girls? The Four Words You Need to Be Saying
The Instagram post that triggered this whole post...

Other times, this compliment isn't literal - but it's just as powerful. 

"You are so strong" could be your reaction to your neighbor undergoing a year of chemotherapy and not bothering to hide her bald head as she waters the flowers in her front lawn. You could say it to the mother comforting her child who's been hospitalized for the third time that year. They may even be the words that your friend, suddenly single after spending years with the man she thought was It, needs to hear.

Sometimes, even, you may hear these four words when you're strong enough to show your weaknesses. Being strong doesn't mean you can't hurt or cry or question life. Instead, strength is realizing that you can show vulnerability and flaws, and that you are no less worthy of admiration or respect. I used to try to be strong all the time and hide how much I was hurting, physically or mentally. Now, though, I've realized that strength isn't not feeling or showing pain; it's experiencing hurt but knowing that you'll smile again in the future.

Want to Empower Women and Girls? The Four Words You Need to Be Saying

Studies have found that people often underestimate their strength in emotionally challenging times and expect to be unhappy longer than they actually are. What's the danger in that? We're so worried about hurting, we avoid making decisions that could cause intense, short-term pain...but also bring us the most long-term satisfaction. Perhaps, then, reminding people that they're strong enough to weather any emotional storm is the secret weapon we really need to find our happiest lives.

The most important use of this compliment, though, might be internal. I'm the first to admit that my self-talk needs work. I don't talk to myself as a loved one or even friend. I'm overly critical. I'm sometimes unforgiving. But the first step to more self-love could involve four little words: "I am strong enough."

Want to Empower Women and Girls? The Four Words You Need to Be Saying

I was strong enough to fight for a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, a chronic illness characterized by constant widespread pain, at 11 years old

I was strong enough to graduate college in 3.5 years with a 4.0 GPA...even though I was hospitalized for celiac complications as a freshman, and my doctors wanted me to drop out for a semester. 

I was strong enough to say "yes" to a fully funded opportunity for grad school at Minnesota State University, Mankato - even though I've never even visited Minnesota. 

I am strong enough to love myself, though that may be the hardest internal battle we ever fight. I am strong enough to keep kicking celiac's booty and spreading gluten-free awareness. 

To put it simply, I am strong enough to handle whatever life throws at me...and you are too, as long as you dare to believe it. And that? That is the mindset I want more women and girls to have.

Want to Empower Women and Girls? The Four Words You Need to Be Saying

Now, I'm no expert in human behavior or psychology. (My BA was in Writing, as a matter a fact.) However, I've experienced (perhaps more than) my fair share of awkward conversations, challenging times and big life changes. And what my 21 years of experience have taught me so far?

We're all strong in different ways and different scenarios. And, if you need a compliment that will help empower women and girls and make them even more epic than they are...acknowledging this strength is a good start. 

How are you strong? Anything else you want to tell me? Fill me in by commenting below! 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. ^Hi Casey! I'm Sam, I actually think saying "I am enough" is enough!


  3. Such a motivating and empowering post! We are all strong!



  4. I love that! We definitely aren't told enough how strong we are. It's something we should tell ourselves too! 🙂


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