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The Girls' Guide to Conquering Life: How to Ace an Interview, Change a Tire, Talk to a Guy, and 97 Other Skills You Need to Thrive
by Erica Catherman
Learn More | Meet Erica Catherman | Meet Jonathan Catherman
Here’s a question every girl wants the answer to: When exactly does a girl become a woman? If you are thinking the correct answer has something to do with age, cultural rites of passage, or changes in a girl’s body, then you are on the right track.
Around the world, cultures celebrate the transition from girlhood to womanhood in unique and significant ways. Some wait for a specific age to mark the moment officially. In the US, adulthood is legally recognized on your 18th birthday. Yet in the UK, 16 is the magic number. In Japan and New Zealand you’ll need to turn 20, and if you live in Zambia, waiting until you are 21 years old to be lawfully recognized as an adult may feel like an eternity.
Cultural traditions also play an important part in a girl’s “coming of age.” In many regions of Central and South America, girls celebrate their quinceañera at 15 by renewing their baptismal vows in a Catholic mass and hosting a fiesta for friends and family. In Japan, some girls still celebrate a 1,200-year-old tradition known as Seijin no Hi, recognizing a youth’s age of maturity by dressing up in their finest traditional attire and celebrating with friends and family who shower them with gifts. In Malaysia, some Muslim girls consider their 11th birthday to be very special as it marks the time when they can celebrate Khatam Al Koran. In the southwestern US, some traditional Apache girls still complete the Na’ii’ees Sunrise Ceremony, also known as the coming-of-age or the puberty ceremony, in which female participants draw closer to the first woman, Esdzanadehe.
Some mothers wait with great anticipation for their daughters to have their first menstruation and then throw them an elaborate “period party.” Also known as lady’s days, the arrival of Aunt Flo, and her time of the month, the reality is the onset of a girl’s menstrual cycle indicates her body is quickly changing, and some moms feel that’s worth celebrating.
Truth be told, it’s difficult to mark the exact moment a girl becomes a woman. Perhaps the answer to the question includes more than her age, traditions, or physical body. Here is what I can tell you with certainty: Strong women know that personal maturity transforms them into women. Maturity is a practiced skill and is best demonstrated when a woman knows how to do the right thing, the right way, at the right time, for the right reason.
So, will knowing how to do stuff and behave “properly” actually make you a woman? Nope! Growing up takes time, practice, and some difficult trials. As you navigate the journey to womanhood, learn and grow not just your skills, but also your character. Character? Yes, character is who you are and what you do . . . even when nobody’s watching. It’s repeated patterns, decisions you make, and actions you take that develop the picture of who you are and who you will become. Strong women live by different standards—higher standards. Strong women don’t believe that the type of clothes they wear, how much they spend, or the number of shoes they own are what makes them a woman. Strong women know that maturity, character, and being kind to themselves and others helps define them.
Give yourself the knowledge and tools to become a strong, confident, and capable woman too. This Girls’ Guide to Conquering Life is packed full of real-life, useful how-to instructions that will make your journey to womanhood a little smoother. It’s loaded with quotes, fun facts, and wisdom from women who are experts in their field—women who can fix stuff, can demonstrate good character, and can handle social situations with grace and confidence.
Now it’s your turn!
I’m strong because I’m fearless.
I’m fearless because I’m confident.
I’m confident because I am capable of doing what is required of me and what inspires me.
My knowledge, my talents, my strengths are all practiced, and practice makes me better.
Better at being myself, better at being kind to all, and better at helping others become strong too.
Guys & Dating
Friendship with oneself is allimportant, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.
You may find them to be overly annoying. You may catch yourself staring at them way too much. Loathe them or like them, guys make up about half of the earth’s population, so there’s no avoiding them. One thing is certain—before you consider who is “datable” or not, take the time to get to know the one person who will be in all your relationships: yourself.
Getting to know yourself is a lifelong adventure. Just a few years ago, you were a little girl with a little girl’s thoughts and a little girl’s body. In a few years you’ll be a grown woman who thinks and looks much different. But now you’re at the age when almost everything is changing, and changing fast. What you like to do is changing. Some of the people you like are changing. Who you want to become may be changing too. This is totally normal and an important part of the adventure and transformation between girlhood and womanhood. The truth is, the more you discover what matters most to you, the more you will enjoy the journey. To help you focus on the true you, complete these statements with confidence before starting any dating relationship.
- My goals are . . .
- My priorities are . . .
- My beliefs and values are . . .
You are 100% you and only 50% of any relationship, so knowing and owning these statements will help you be confident in yourself before somebody else enters the picture. Knowing your priorities will keep your vision clear; say yes to what is important and no to what is not. Staying true to your beliefs balances your heart, mind, body, and soul. This all adds up to you growing into a woman who does not limit or sacrifice herself for the sake of any relationship.
If you are confident in who you are, you’ll be better prepared when “datable” does come along. Your standards are high, so his better be too. If you are going to become a 50/50 couple, you’ll need to respect each other’s goals, priorities, beliefs, and values. If that isn’t happening . . . neither is the relationship.
When you meet someone who honors you fully, you’ve found someone special. As in any relationship, communication is important and can make or break you as a couple. Communication is not just talk, talk, talking—it’s also about truly listening to understand. What is communicated through tone of voice, eye contact, and body language also says a lot. Working on your communication skills is important at any stage of a relationship. Here are a few pointers about good communication:
- Say what you mean to say. Work on your ability to use words properly, keeping in mind the tone and volume of your voice. Speech can be an amazing, powerful tool. It helps to have a good vocabulary, so pay closer attention in English class. It’s been said that words can cut deep, so choose them wisely, especially if you like sarcasm. Too much or mistimed sarcasm can cause both you and others unintended pain. Remember, sometimes saying less is more. Like when a simple “yes” means “yes” and “no” means “no,” you’ll need to stand behind your words.
- Know your body language. How you physically hold yourself while speaking provides clues to what you are feeling and thinking. For instance, slouch your shoulders and look down and you’ll appear to lack confidence or maybe even look weak. Cross your arms and tap your foot and you look upset or impatient. Instead, stand tall and look people in the eyes when they talk. This tells them you are listening and interested in what they have to say.
- Listen to understand. There is a big difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is easy, but listening to understand takes practice. You hear the words coming out of someone’s mouth, but do you really understand what they are saying? Try paying attention to their body language and repeating a variation of what they said to confirm you understood what they meant. You’re not “judging” their words, just affirming their intent and confirming you understand them correctly.
Do keep this not-so-fun fact in mind: More often than not, dating relationships end with a breakup. Yes, it’s true, “datable” might prove to be less than remarkable. This is just one reason why good communication is so important. Go slow when you decide to start dating. Rushing into a relationship emotionally or physically rarely ends well. Building a relationship on the quality of your friendship makes the potential breakup statement “let’s just be friends” less likely to actually happen.
How to Talk with a Guy You Like
YOU WILL NEED:
- A guy you like
- Fresh breath
TIME REQUIRED: As long as it takes
This is no big deal. Then again, sometimes it feels like it’s the biggest deal in the world, right?! Talking to someone you like can make you more nervous than anything else imaginable. Just keep in mind, this kind of nervous is another way of knowing you are excited to talk with him. So, be confident and know you got this! Just go up to him and say something simple like “Hello” followed by a conversation-starting statement or openended question that gets him talking.
Breathe. Taking a couple deep breaths is a good idea anytime you need to relax, so take some now! The extra oxygen will help keep you calm, cool, and confident.
Check your breath. This is a first-impression thing—no need to leave him with an impression of the last meal you ate. Do a double check and maybe eat a mint to freshen up your introduction. (See “How to Freshen Bad Breath.”)
Approach with confidence. Stand tall with your shoulders back and your head held high.
Say something. Maybe start with a simple, “Hello, I’m [your name here].” It’s best to be yourself, so if you prefer a “Howdy,” “What’s up,” or “Hey,” that’s your call.
Ask open-ended questions. If you would like to spend more than ten seconds talking with someone, asking a few good questions is a good way to get a conversation going. A few yes/no questions will work if you don’t know them very well, but open-ended questions that require explanations are the best! If you ask the questions, make sure you are a good listener and that you are ready to answer if questions are asked of you.
You may need to think of a few open-ended questions before you say “hello” (or whatever). Here are some examples:
- “What kind of music do you like?” and “Have you ever seen them in concert?”
- “What’s your favorite class?” and “Why do you like that class so much?”
- “Watched any good movies lately?” and “Would you recommend I see it too?”
End the conversation well. Wrap things up with a positive statement like, “Good talking with you. See you again soon.” There’s nothing wrong with simple!
Did You Know?
Girls use their “sophisticated verbal talents” to bond in relationships. When engaging in meaningful discussions, girls often maintain eye contact, lean in, and enjoy lots of talking. This helps cement the bond they have with each other. This is rarely the case with boys.
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