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Four things I was surprised to learn from being a Girl Scout Leader

That I can accept failure

My involvement as a Girl Scout volunteer started out simply enough. I was asked to manage the Daisy troop checking account.  A couple years later, the Brownies needed a leader.  Without knowing what I was getting myself into, I just said yes.  I was a Mom with good intentions and some extra time on my hands.  I jumped right in; this is a good job for a control-freak/obsessive-compulsive/perfectionist. I assumed, wrongly and naively, that this would be easy.  It didn’t take me long to learn that this is a vulnerable place.

Afraid_editBrene Brown gave a speech about criticism and creativity in which she said this about vulnerability:  “If you want to show up and be seen, there is only one guarantee.  And that is that you will get your ass kicked.”  She was referring specifically to creative people such as artists.  But I think this is a universal truth.  If you put yourself out there, whether it’s in a leadership role, or as an artist, or student, or business person, you will face judgment, criticism, and failure.  But if you truly love what you are doing, you have to accept the good with the bad.  My volunteer work has really taught me this.  Ideas I loved haven’t jelled with the girls.  I have overestimated their maturity and their skills.  I’ve faced criticism from parents.  I make mistakes all the time with the spotlight shining on me.  Yep, embarrassing and humbling.  But it hasn’t stopped me from wanting to show up and be seen.  Thankfully, I am surrounded by friends who pick me up and dust me off, as Brown says.  The joy of working with these girls far outweighs my fear of failure.

That our differences aren’t a barrier to belonging

This group of girls is like a bag of licorice all-sorts. They come in every shape, size, color, and flavor.   It amazes me how these vastly different girls can come together and create a bond.  We have different family structures, cultures, and personalities.  We have different skills, abilities, and interests.  Some are shy and quiet.  Some are loud and outgoing.  We have ice-skaters, dancers, singers, musicians, swimmers, volleyball players, cheerleaders, artists, cooks, and heavy equipment operators!  My daughter will show up with her hair uncombed, wearing sweatpants, and listening to classic rock on her iPod.  Her best friend will have perfectly coifed hair, a very girly outfit, and will listen to the latest boy band.  So different, yet best friends.  Don’t get me wrong, they do have their share of disagreements!  But I have never seen them be intentionally cruel, hurtful or unaccepting of each other.

The same is true for my adult Girl Scout friends. These are amazing women that I may never have known if not for scouting.  We too have drastically different interests and don’t always agree.  But they are my mentors and confidants.

Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me. This is one goal of Girl Scouts, to teach acceptance and respect for others.  But I know the world isn’t like this.  I know our girls face bullies in school.  I know they will face challenges as adults in the workplace and in their grown-up relationships with others.  It’s not easy to find where you fit in, where you belong.  I’m so grateful that our Girl Scout group has become that safe place for us.  We are a living, breathing example of the Girl Scout Law – being a sister to every Girl Scout.

That being a Girl Scout Leader is my most meaningful work

It was an unexpected realization.  An “aha” moment.  I LOVE what I’m doing – this is so rewarding.  It wasn’t about my job of 20 years, it was about my volunteer work.  It came to me one day when I was putting together photographs of our activities on a display board for an event.  Looking at all the great experiences these girls have had, I realized that I was instrumental in that.  I could see that I have helped them step out of their comfort zones – on a ropes course, or in a kayak, or in a tent.  I could see their pride in themselves – from planting a garden, or building a parade float, or working with younger girls.  It’s hard for me to come up with something I could do that would be more meaningful.  And it doesn’t even pay the bills.

IMG_3170It’s easy to get caught up in thinking, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” How awesome it must be for people who accomplish this.  But I realized I didn’t need to put that pressure on myself.  The work that really gives my life meaning doesn’t need to come with a paycheck.  It actually comes with something much more valuable – a sense of purpose.



That we need to be silly

I take my Girl Scouting pretty seriously. I have a strong belief in the mission of Girl Scouts.  Girls today need strong female role models, showing them how to be brave, confident, and accept no limits.  So I try very hard to get the meaning and message of the program across to my girls.  But there is one thing I forget sometimes.  They are still children.  They need to be having fun.

IMG_1009It’s important to make time in our lives for just being goofy. We have to lighten up.  Well, at least I know I need to.  Things don’t have to be so serious all the time.  We spend our days handling the pressures of long to-do lists and tight schedules.  There needs to be a release.  We all need a dose of the sillies once in a while.  And in spite of my efforts to keep us on track, my scouts invariably need to get their ya-yas out during our meeting times.  I’ve been fighting it for a long time.  But they’ve got me thinking.  We need to set aside time for this, not only at Scouts, but in our everyday lives.

One of the things I remember most about being a Girl Scout as a child was singing funny songs.  I loved “Going on a Bear Hunt.”  Thankfully, these traditions are still alive and well in Scouts today.  We need to sing loud and off-key.  We need to dance wildly and not care who is watching.  We need to tell silly jokes and laugh hysterically when someone shoots juice out of her nose!  I’m taking this new attitude to my next Girl Scout meeting.  I think my girls will be pleasantly surprised.

© Vulnerable Path, 2014

“Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”