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a teen and even as a young woman in my 20s, mine was most definitely lost. A bit shy, I often found myself sitting among my peers in silence as they animatedly told stories and exchanged jokes. And heaven forbid that a controversial topic came up, especially if I found myself disagreeing with the group. That situation rendered me completely mute, gazing at my shoelaces throughout the discussion, even though on the inside I was nearly bursting with the desire to share my own views. But I lacked the confidence. In my mind, my own opinions seemed too silly and unimportant—unworthy, even—to discuss with them. Without a great deal of coaxing from my friends (or a great deal of alcohol), I was voiceless. There are so many things that girls today need to learn in order to grow into smart, productive, creative, and happy women. As mothers, we strive to provide our children with a strong foundation and all the tools they will need to launch themselves into this orbit of successful adulthood. Heck, sometimes we just want to wrap ourselves around them—or at least wrap their hearts in bubble wrap—and protect them from the dangers we know are ahead. But while our support is so very important, I think we often neglect to nurture their voices. Imagine how much smoother their journeys would be if we also helped them to build the confidence to feel empowered by their own voices and their own ideas. In this broken world we live in today, that skill is more important than it ever has been before. Marriage rates are declining. Our economy is stagnant at best. Islamic extremism threatens women not just abroad, but here at home, too. Christianity is routinely maligned and vilified. But there is hope. The young women of today are in the unique position to alter this course and make a tremendous difference in the future of our country. Women make up 51 percent of the population, after all. We contribute economically and politically to our nation’s welfare, and I think it’s time for our young women to take a stand and be heard. It is my hope that the girls of today, unlike the 20-something-year-old me, will feel free to express themselves. It is my hope that rather than choking back their words in fear that others won’t approve, they will respectfully express their opinions and say what they think. It is my hope that instead of staring at their shoelaces, they’ll lift their eyes to their peers and challenge the status quo with confidence. We can teach our daughters all kinds of important things, but let’s also cultivate their voices. It’s just a matter of helping them to articulate what they believe and why it matters. It’s a matter of giving them the resources and the courage to share their beliefs in a way that, if nothing else, makes their peers stop and think. And who knows? Perhaps in speaking up, our daughters can affect real change. Each spring we ask our readers to nominate area tweens and teens who amaze them. Strong, confident, fearless, creative, motivated, imaginative, and generous, this year’s nominees are already well on their way to finding their voices. They inspire me with their unique skills, visions, and their indelible senses of self. You can read all about them starting on page 22. I hope you enjoy their stories—and their voices— as much as I have!
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June 2016 Lake Norman Woman Magazine