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This little girl is me.

She grew up in a rural farming community with parents and grandparents who encouraged and supported her. This little girl loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian.

In seventh grade, she was bullied for how she looked. It destroyed her self-esteem.

She found where she could exceed: music, public speaking, and academics. She showed up confident, but inside was terribly afraid of being left out and bullied again. She sought and found approval from adults instead of peers.

She still wanted to be a veterinarian, but had a horrible chemistry teacher and became convinced she’d never succeed in the sciences (she could have). She gave up on her dream.

This Little Girl is Me

In college, she continued to succeed academically and artistically. But her continuing poor self-esteem and desire for belonging led her to make some poor choices that reinforced her self-talk.

In her 20s, she struggled to find her career direction, much less her true self.

In her 30s, in career ennui, she considered going to vet school. After a few calls, reality set in, and she focused her love for animals to volunteering in animal welfare as board chair of Pet Haven Inc of Minnesota. And she started to hone in on her professional gifts and where she could best contribute and feel fulfilled.

In her early 40s, she had an experience that threw into question everything she believed about her identity–so tied to work, because, like academics, that’s where she’d found approval. She dug deep and dealt with the baggage she’d been carrying around since 7th grade, her need for approval from the “cool kids” and adults. She did the hard work to allow her authentic self to rise to the surface.

By leaning into her authenticity, she found her people. She was given incredible opportunities. And she was able to look at that little girl with kindness and compassion, finally forgive the bullies, and feel confident in who she is, her expertise, and her voice.

When the opportunity presented itself, she embraced risk–something she never would have done before–and she and her husband moved to Colorado, a long-desired dream, without jobs. She had the confidence to start her own business doing the work she loves, which two years later is succeeding beyond what she could have imagined.

And while she’s still not a vet, she continues to pursue her passion as board chair of PawsCo.

Why am I telling you this? Because 70% of girls feel more confident about their futures after hearing from women role models. Now obviously those girls aren’t reading my blog. But you are. If you have a girl in your life, search for the hashtag #ThisLittleGirlIsMe, sit down together, and read and discuss some of the amazing stories you’ll find. 

I encourage all of the fabulous women in my network to participate in this campaign by Inspiring Girls International. And I’d love to hear how your little girl (that’s you!) grew up, too!

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