After an overwhelming rush of emotions when I found out I was going to be featured as one of the statues in the new Lyda Hill IF/THEN Initiative’s exhibit, the organizers asked me to share a piece of advice I wish my younger self had heard. After accepting an honor like that, it might seem like I’d say something like “if you persevere, good things will happen” or something else about how working hard makes for a good outcome, but I always kind of believed that to be true, even as a kid. The one thing I didn’t hear a lot, was that it’s okay to ask for help when you don’t understand something. I was so concerned with other kids thinking I was stupid—especially the boys— that I blocked myself from learning new things.
As I got older, I realized admitting you don’t know something actually takes a tremendous amount of confidence and courage. I learned (as an adult, no less) that speaking up can lead to opportunities to not only learn what you don’t know, but make connections with the people you’re learning from. I still get anxious sometimes to admit when I don’t know something, but I remind myself that only good things can come next.
When I think of myself as a little girl, scared to speak up and “embarrass” myself, I want to tell her that she’s asking a question so many of the other kids are too afraid to ask. I want to let her know that admitting you don’t know something is paving a path for you to learn, while staying quiet will only lead to you wishing you spoke up. However, I realize this might be easier said than done.
Women and girls everywhere (including me) feel like, even when they do speak up, they’re not being heard. I’d encourage parents to make themselves available to any question daughters might have, and let her know there are no stupid questions. And if you have boys, make sure that—from a young age—they’re listening to girls as much as they’re listening to boys. I know sometimes it might seem like they’re too young for gender bias to take effect, but unfortunately, it does. If we instill values of equality when kids are young, they’re more likely to become part of their adult lives and establish an equal playing field we can all appreciate.