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Life Masters | Chelsey Goodan | Empowering Teenage Girls


Chelsey Goodan is the author of the USA Today national bestseller, UNDERESTIMATED: The Power and Wisdom of Teenage Girls, which has been endorsed by Oprah’s Book Club, saying, “If you have a teenage girl in your life, you need to read this.” Amazon’s Editorial Director chose UNDERESTIMATED as her “Editor’s Pick, Best Nonfiction,” and when Chelsey was recently on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna, they exclaimed, “We couldn’t stop talking about your book.”

Chelsey has been a mentor and empowerment coach to teenage girls for 16 years. She speaks regularly to audiences about gender justice, conducts workshops, and serves as the mentorship director of DemocraShe, which supports and guides girls from underserved communities into leadership positions. As a keynote speaker, Chelsey teaches communication strategies that make everyone feel seen, heard, understood, valued, and celebrated, creating psychological safety for everyone from teenage girls to CEOs. She is also a board member for A Call to Men, a national gender-based violence prevention nonprofit that educates men and boys about healthy masculinity. Featured in TIME Magazine, Oprah Daily, and NBC News, Chelsey’s passion to explore humanity’s potential for authenticity, liberation, and empowerment permeates all her work.

In this episode, the discussion revolves around empowering teenage girls, addressing gender-based violence, and fostering open communication. Chelsey Goodan emphasizes the importance of empathy, understanding, and radical honesty in relationships with teenage girls. This episode also highlights the necessity of addressing the root causes of male violence and the need to involve men in ending gender-based violence. The conversation underscores the significance of allowing girls to explore their identity and the role of authenticity in their development.


Key Takeaways:

  • Empowerment through Empathy: Empathy is highlighted as a powerful quality that teenage girls possess and should be nurtured.
  • Radical Honesty: Being real and honest with teenage girls fosters respect and understanding.
  • Addressing Male Violence: The root causes of male violence need to be addressed by involving men in the conversation and allowing boys to express a full spectrum of emotions.
  • Authenticity in Identity Exploration: Allowing teenage girls to explore and express their identity through fashion and makeup without judgment promotes authenticity.

Listen to the podcast here


Empowering Teenage Girls With Chelsey Goodan: Gender Justice And Empathy

Welcome to this episode where we have the privilege of speaking with Chelsey Goodan. I’m very happy that you’re here. She’s a passionate advocate for teenage girls and a driving force in gender justice. She’s an author and a mentorship director. She has been empowering young women for a very long time through her work with nonprofits like DemocraShe. She’s also the author of a bestselling book called Underestimated. That’s why I brought you in here, although I’ve been following you forever. I have so much respect for everything you’re doing.

Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.

Let’s dig right in. I want to know, how did the book all start for you?

Interestingly, I was working with teenage girls, first as an academic tutor, and then volunteering my time mentoring girls from underserved communities. I was writing in my free time but it was years ago that it was a pie-in-my-face moment where I was like, “The thing that is so meaningful that I spend so much time doing is the story that I need to tell the world.” I realized how much these girls kept saying the wisest things to me. I wanted to be their microphone for what they wanted to say to the world. They weren’t being taken seriously in how much they had solutions to not only their problems but the world’s problems. They are underestimated.

It’s so true everything that I’ve read in your book too. I was born in the ‘70s. I’m a little bit old school. I struggle because there’s such a huge difference between my little girl’s life and when I was a teenager. It’s difficult. It causes issues between us.

Understanding The Generational And Cultural Gap

There’s a generational gap and cultural gap, whether there’s social media and how they interact with that. Gen Z is about changing the world. They look at things very differently than other generations but I love them for it. I’m trying to celebrate them in a way that’s like, “Maybe they have some good ideas on how we could be doing things differently.”

We’ll dig into certain topics and I know that you talk about social media. I’m in a situation with my daughter where we have been having a lot of issues with what she’s posting on social media. How do you teach them to post? She’s a teenager and she’s following what’s out there. It’s very provocative. She doesn’t even know what the boundaries are. I’m constantly teaching her but I feel like I’m nagging her and then she gets mad at me. How do you create a healthy relationship with social media for it?

That is the question.

I know. I heard it on all your other shows too but I had to ask.

I always do want to acknowledge that there’s a problematic world with social media. I want to put that out there. It’s not going anywhere. We have to figure out tools on how to empower a girl to have a healthy relationship with it. That’s the space I’m interested in, that media literacy space that’s like, how do we create conversations that activate her sense of agency and choice in the matter but also help her understand the meaning behind her choices. Last time, when a dynamic’s already been set up where it can be contentious or a nagging feeling, I always say to ask for a do-over like, “Can we have a restart on this dynamic that we have?”

I’d like to have that one.

We are talking about it in the conclusion of the book about making amends and saying, “I’m sorry if you felt like I’ve nagged you and you felt like I didn’t respect your voice in this conversation.” Give her a moment where she feels acknowledged, heard, and respected, and then say, “I’m going to start by listening and not judging. I do not have any secret agenda. I deeply want to understand what you like about social media, which accounts you like, and why you like to do it. Is it about connecting with your friends? Is it about following this?” Seek to understand first and listen.

Life Masters | Chelsey Goodan | Empowering Teenage Girls

Underestimated: The Wisdom and Power of Teenage Girls

You can say to her, “I promise I’m not going to judge. I’m not going to jump in with my thoughts.” Have that be the entire moment and say, “Great. I’m going to think about this and think about what you’ve shared with me. We’re going to come back together again. I want to help create a plan with you that feels good for you and me. I trust you to make healthy choices with social media. I’m going to give you that trust,” before you may even be ready to give the trust.

We’re always never ready.

No, but verbalize it out loud because this is my experience. When a girl feels that trust and respect, she rises to the occasion. She tends to be like, “My parents are trusting me with this responsible decision.” Rather than that contentious where it’s like, “She doesn’t get me. They don’t understand me. He didn’t listen to me.” It’s easy for them to default into that and then shut down, close off, and do it in secret type of dynamic.

It is what happens. It’s happened more than once.

Empowering Girls Through Listening And Affirmation

In all fairness, the teenage years are an important time for them to figure out their independence also but with social media, there are obvious concerns for parents. I like to activate her sense of agency and choice in a way that I say, “You’re going to make healthy choices. I know you’re capable of this. What does this look like for you? What does feel healthy for you?” Phrase everything as a question and then affirm her.

If she says, “Maybe I don’t like to look at it at night,” or she says something, say, “That’s amazing. That’s so smart of you.” That’s it, rather than jumping in and being like, “That’s what I think too.” She wants to think that she generated all of the ideas on her own, that she knows what’s best for herself, and that you trust that. There is going to be tension because she may not have it all figured out.

You’re going to have to hold space for her not having it all figured out but her finding her way with it and you trusting her. We’re trying to create adults who can make healthy decisions in the future. There has to be this gray zone of discomfort where she doesn’t get it all right but when we jump in and try to fix it for them or give them our solution, what happens is they wall up and close you out.

She does shut down. We have a good relationship but there are times when she shuts down. Sometimes you scroll under their social media. There was a situation where she had it set up where I couldn’t see her social media but I didn’t know that. I found out that that’s what was happening. How do you deal with that? You find things there that you’re like, “I cannot believe it.” When you compare it to some of the other girls her age, it’s not that bad.

Teenage Identity And Expression

This lens goes into a different territory of the book, like the beauty chapter and the identity chapter. The teenage years are a huge exploration of their identity. We love to judge teenage girls for being pretty or sexy or wearing clothes that we don’t like or approve of. What they feel is tons of judgment. They cannot get it right so they want to be like, “Screw it, whatever.”

Instead, I like to come at it with genuine curiosity where I’m like, “Cool, why do you want to wear that,” mean it, and be like, “I understand how that makes you feel like you’re exploring this part of who you are.” It’s not wrong for a girl to explore her relationship to her sexuality but what does that safe space look like for her?

We don’t necessarily want it all playing out on social media but if she has no room to do it anywhere in her life where she only feels judgment, how can we create more safe spaces where she’s like, “I’m going to wear this and see how it makes me feel.” The truth is when I find that if you don’t make a lot of commentary about her outfits, she gets over the outfit in a few months anyway and starts exploring something else. Whereas when the parent comes in and is like, “You cannot wear that,” they’re like, “I’m going to wear it.”

There’s a situation where my daughter’s been to because we live in an area where she happens to be invited to like we’re on bar mitzvah for number 40. It’s super fun. There are extravagant, beautiful, gorgeous parties. It’s like they’re partying in the South of France but in Beverly Hills. I don’t think it’s amazing for them to be exposed to this one way but in another way, the dresses are so short with the little running shoes. It’s the whole thing. It’s like the movie you’re not invited to my bar mitzvah but it’s a safe thing. She’s walking out the door and she’s in a dress that is short because you weren’t watching that she chose that dress. How do you handle the situation?

First of all, what I put the focus on in my sexuality chapter of the book is how we should be focusing a lot more on men and boys. What is their healthy perception so they’re not sexualizing and objectifying girls so that maybe girls can wear whatever they want instead? What we’re doing is putting all the blame and responsibility on girls to manage boys’ inclinations. The girls tell me constantly how slut-shamed they feel by what they wear.

What happens is they feel that their body is bad, that their body is dangerous, and that they have the weight of the world on their shoulders to manage every single thing and prevent all harm. It shouldn’t be on all their shoulders. I like to always make sure I verbalize that this isn’t necessarily should be their problem. I hope we can create a world where a girl can explore her clothes and figure out what she wants to wear. That’s not entirely realistic in the world that we live in.

Especially for a thirteen-year-old.

That comes back to that curiosity of like, “What’s going to be right for her?” The girls are maturing way faster in a way. A short skirt seems reasonable to them. I say it does in their brain versus an adult brain. This is what I like to do. I want to bridge this gap as much as a parent wants me to be like, “She shouldn’t be wearing it.” I’m trying to be a translator for the girl who is like, “Why is my short skirt bad? Is it because we’ve taught men and boys to sexualize me? Go fix that.”

That’s true. There are predators. There are people who watch social media. I see what she’s wearing. My daughter can wear a paper bag and baggy pants and men will stare at her uncomfortable. As a mom, when I see her wearing something that I don’t think is appropriate, it upsets me and I’m having a hard time with it.

I get why you’re having a hard time with it. There are no easy answers here. What I do know in my experience is that she has to be part of the conversation with you and that she has to feel like her voice is respected in the conversation. Even if at the end of the day, you listen to her thoughts about it, her feelings about it, and you acknowledge them so she feels heard, and then you say, “This is my experience of it and let’s find a middle ground with it.” Even if she’s mad that she has to take off the skirt or whatever it is, she’ll at least feel heard and not shamed about it. That’s where the space I care about most, making sure there’s no shame as a consequence.

I know you talk a lot about changing the way that men treat women too when they’re dressed like that. There’s a healthy balance with it too. If a woman shows up and she’s beautiful and she’s dressed and she’s showing a little bit of her body and she has a nice body and this and that, a man is going to look. I don’t think that’s normal.

I’m talking about though looking at like a teenage girl. Grown-up women should wear whatever they want to wear.

You know what you’re getting into when you do it.

Why don’t we actively teach boys and men that they shouldn’t be staring at a teenage girl’s dress? Men are capable of making choices and controlling themselves but we let them off the hook because we have in all of our messaging, put the entire onus and responsibility on girls and women.

That’s something that happens through good communication and asking those questions. You talk a lot about the right questions to ask.

The questions are often like, “What do you think the solution is? How do you feel about this? What would make you feel good? What are your needs right now? What are your needs to feel safe?” It’s that seeking to understand.

What if at the core of it, you still don’t agree with what they’re saying? “I want to post provocative stuff on social media because I feel more accepted by my friends.” That’s not what my daughter’s saying.

I would reflect on those exact words like, “I hear you and this is why you want to do this. It’s making me feel this way and uncomfortable. As your parent, I feel this need to protect you. You may not want that sense of protection. How do you think we should handle this?” Share your feelings and good intentions about it, rather than trying to control her right away. The girls are smart and responsible. They’ll be more likely to come up with a solution that integrates your feelings too if they don’t feel controlled and shamed.

I know that you know about the CDC.

They report that they’re depressed with anxiety. Also, sexual assault and all the different things. I was not surprised about the sexual assault statistics at all. A lot of people were.

Depression and suicide are on the rise.

I’ve been in this space a long time and I’ve been on the frontlines of ending gender-based violence and this type of work. I’m on the board of a nonprofit called A Call to Men, which is exactly what I’m talking about, getting men behind the cause of ending gender-based violence. Women could have ended the violence by themselves. We would have done it by now. We need to invite men into this conversation and make sure that they are a part of the solution because the male violence issue is the true problem.

We need to invite men into this part of the conversation and make sure that they are a part of the solution. Click To Tweet

What would you say is the biggest difference? What advice would you give women who are older moms like myself who were born in the ‘70s and I have a teenage girl, Gen Z? What is some great advice that you could give older parents where the gap is so exponentially wide? We’re struggling.

Everything we’ve already covered is this territory, listening, not judging, phrasing everything as a question, affirming her smart thoughts, and making sure there’s enough space before we jump in with our solutions. Gen Z likes to have a voice. These girls want to have a voice. In the older generations, women were way more quiet in a pleasing way. In all fairness, to address back to the depression and anxiety you brought up, I find the root of it has a lot more to do with that type of pressure and expectations we put on girls to be perfect and likable all the time. That’s what’s causing so much anxiety because it’s impossible.

They put it on themselves amongst each other though too.

There’s socialization. We’re all socialized this way, whether it’s through the media, parenting, or school environments. There’s so much messaging coming at them. I try to be the change. Message something differently. I will say there’s a huge difference between working with boys and girls. The boys can be imperfect. They can be messy. They can make mistakes and they don’t absorb it into their entire identity as, “I am a failure,” whereas the girls do.

One little mistake and they’re never going to do it again. They’re never even going to try that again. There’s a definite cultural message that girls need to be perfect to have value in the world and have worth. It’s a nonstop cycle. They’re never going to be enough. As we fill that hole of trying to feel like enough, we play out the same pattern and cycle. Many of the wounds that happen in our teenage years, women carry into adulthood.

I was like, “My daughter does that.” The words, “I’m sorry and it’s fine.” She does that all the time. What is that about?

I talk about that in the people-pleasing chapter and the perfection chapter.

I was a people pleaser too. We were raised that way, and I still am.

The people-pleasing wound is so deep for women and it starts in your teenage years. I would even say it could start as a child or a girl. Women are taught in general to put other people’s needs before their own. That’s why I bring it back to those questions where I ask your daughter wanting to post that or wanting to wear that. I go, “What do you need right now? What are you getting out of this that you need? Let’s figure out what that unmet need is and see if there are other ways for you to feel that way.” We’re not even asking girls to check in with themselves and say, “What pleases you? What do you need right now?” It’s that mechanism of checking in and being like, “What do I want? Do I want to hang out with that person?” They check in with themselves.

Instead, we’re cross-checking it with, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing the normal thing? Am I doing the perfect thing? Am I doing the good enough thing? Is it what my friends want? Is it the cool thing?” They’re cross-checking it against measures of external validation and measures outside of them rather than learning what their intuition, heart, and inner voice are. That’s when we should start developing that inner voice. When you ask your daughter those questions, you may not love every answer she gives but it’s the act of asking her and her forming that question.

Sometimes when you ask a girl one of these types of questions, “What do you need right now,” lots of times, they’ll be like, “I don’t know.” I’m like, “Great. You don’t know right now. I’m going to give you some time to think. I cannot wait to hear what you come up with. I want to know what you need in this situation. I trust that you’re going to come up with some smart answers I cannot wait to hear.” She’s then like, “Wait, I do get to check-in. What do I need or why?” It’s that tension of not having it all figured out but making sure we’re asking.

Creating the space to be okay with not having it all figured out and know that she’s not going to be judged.

They’re scared to say anything at all because they’re going to get judged.

I try so hard but it’s in society too. That’s where the I’m sorry comes from what they’re always putting.

I’m sorry is making sure everyone is cool. It’s making sure no one knows your inner life too a little bit. It’s fine is the same way.

I know it’s not fine. She told me the craziest things like, “That’s not fine.”

Continue to always be like, “You know what? That’s not fine. If you want to vent to me and say how horrible it is, I’m here for you.” What girls don’t like is they don’t want to be pestered about it where a mom or an adult will be like, “What are you going to do about it,” a little bit more jumping in with their fixing energy. This is where we haven’t talked about it yet, holding space for just the feelings.

Let’s talk about that.

Creating that listening, not judging space is the first step and it is about oftentimes with teenage girls who have big feelings. I say that with love, not with judgment. Make sure they have time to have displeasing feelings. Things like anger, frustration, and disappointment. Things that are normal human emotions but we do not create space for girls to have them because we want to fix it so fast.

It’s hard to see your daughter in a state of discomfort and pain so we want to fix it. It’s human and they need to understand that it’s okay for them to feel bad for a second. When there’s time and space for that, I see a lot of them feeling more seen and understood when we reflect the feeling like, “That is disappointing. That’s a heavy emotion. I’m sorry you’re dealing with that.”

Life Masters | Chelsey Goodan | Empowering Teenage Girls

Empowering Teenage Girls: It’s hard to see your daughter in a state of discomfort and pain, so we want to fix it. It’s human and they need to understand that it’s okay for them to feel bad for a second.


They’re also dealing in general with a lot more. Society for them is a big word, whereas my little world was I grew up on a farm. I struggle still. I grew up in a family of brothers. Whenever I’m the emotional one and whenever I voice my opinion, they ignore my emails and text messages. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or what it is but I get ignored whenever I show even a little bit of emotion. I create my space there but I don’t want my daughter to fall into the same category because I want her to be able to express herself.

It’s beautiful. You’re breaking the cycle. These are generational, familial patterns of not making space for emotions. I grew up with no space, feeling like I had space for my big feelings. What we do is learn how to stuff, contain, and suppress, and they explode later in life. We all deal with them in therapy later in life. It’s so much healthier to let a girl be grumpy for a second and be like, “I get it. That sucks. That happened to you.”

Instead of trying to fix it.

Usually, what my experience has been is she relaxes. She’s like, “Thank you for listening.” That’s all she needed. Think about it that’s all we need too. How often do we want people’s advice? If you do have thoughts on how to help, phrase it like a question. Be like, “Do you want my thoughts on this or do you want me to just listen?” Ask what she needs at the moment.

They’ve become adults so much quicker than I know that when I did. When I was thirteen, I wasn’t doing half the things that she was doing. I wasn’t exposed to anything that she’s been exposed to but we have to put ourselves as moms into that situation or aunts, dealing with teenage girls who are not adults but their brains are exposed to all of these things. You have to give them that space to respect them that way to allow these questions to sit because they know what you’re asking more than we give them credit for.

Underestimating them, exactly.

It all comes back to underestimated. The title is so perfect. I know that you talk about trust versus fear too in there. You’ve learned to trust your daughters or teenage girls instead of fearing what their answer is going to be.

Trust Versus Fear In Parenting

Fear in general, whether it’s with a teenage daughter or all of life, fear is not helpful. The girls absorb fear. When they feel fear from their parents, they absorb it and then they stop trusting themselves too. They’re like, “I’m a victim.” It puts you into victim mode. Like social media, we could teach them to be a victim of it and they will be a victim of it then and to fear it.

Whereas, we could empower them to make healthy choices and trust themselves and their ability to say, “That’s a Photoshopped photo and I don’t need to look like that.” Girls are very capable of looking at a beautiful photo of somebody on Instagram and saying, “That was Photoshopped or face-tuned. That’s an unreasonable standard for me to try to meet.” They are capable of that but we have to make sure we’re having that type of conversation around.

That is a trust conversation, not a fear conversation. Instead, it’s like, “She’s going to look at those and have an eating disorder.” Eating disorders are a real issue but I find that those conversations need to start so early on her ability to understand her relationship with her body and beauty without shame. That’s the space.

It’s so difficult though, too. I see it because you’re exposing me to all these different ways of going about it. My daughter comes home crying sometimes because she feels like some of the other girls are mean. I know that teenage girls get labeled as mean. When your kid comes home and says, “She did this or she’s not talking to me anymore,” it’s a tough situation. How do you navigate their feelings through that? How do you fix it?

I feel for you as a mom and everything you’re asking is what I’m hearing from moms across the country. These are normal experiences that you’re having. I’m a big person that says, “Don’t label the girls mean.” It’s the same idea of fear. They become it so we’re telling them they’re mean. Girls do not come out of the womb mean. This is not just something that they’re innately mean.

We’re all judging them but the experiences of mean girls at school are valid and this is what I see play out. First of all, I want to give some hope to the situation that this has shifted. Our generation was way meaner. We think this young generation’s mean because of the social media element but it’s not. They have a narrative of girls supporting girls and women supporting women. They know that narrative way better than our generation did.

Our generation was different. You were taught to compete. There’s one seat at the table for the woman, that’s it. If you look at social media, they amp each other up in the comments. They’re always like, “You go, girl.” There’s something there that doesn’t necessarily happen with older generations that I love. They know the story that girls should be supporting girls and women supporting women.

People like Taylor Swift and a lot of big names have put that out there. I like to use another tool when a girl does have a mean girl situation, which is this generation, Gen Z, another thing that’s different, loves talking about mental health and psychology. If anything, a lot of the statistics about anxiety. I often wonder if they’ve been finally given the words. A girl says, “I have anxiety.” I didn’t know that word growing up and I have anxiety.

My daughter has anxiety. I have it, too.

I had my teenage years and I wonder if maybe the girls have more language to describe their feelings, which is a beautiful thing because we can meet their needs better. When a girl comes to me, having had a mean girl situation at school, I’ll say, “How do you think that girl’s parents are? What is her relationship with them? What is her home life like? Do you know much about it?” The girls usually know. They’ll be like, “Her dad’s never around. Her mom always criticizes her.”

They do know. It’s interesting.

I’m like, “That sounds awful for her. Do you think maybe she’s functioning out of pain, out of her issues, and it’s not about you?” The girl will sit and think, talk it out, and be like, “She’s probably having a hard time.” Gen Z are so good at compassion, way better than I’ve seen in previous generations because they understand mental health and this kind of psychological ideas. In all fairness too, they learn it from social media. There are so many good mental health graphics, infographics, and stuff. I’ve had girls come to me talking about the different trauma responses that they saw an infographic about or their mother’s wound. I had a girl come talking to me about it.

Usually, people aren’t dealing with that until their 40s. It’s true.

It’s amazing. I like to acknowledge that. I like to focus on the good because that’s what will grow. If we focus on their victimhood and the fear, that’s what will grow. That’s what empowerment is. Let’s empower the good and her wisdom. That’s what I’m trying to do with this book. There are plenty of parenting books out there that are all about fear.

Life Masters | Chelsey Goodan | Empowering Teenage Girls

Empowering Teenage Girls: Focus on the good because that’s what will grow. If we just focus on their victimhood and the fear, that’s what will grow.


When she starts realizing that the girl who’s being a bully at school is functioning out of her pain and that it’s not about her, they release it. There’s a beautiful thing that often happens where they find compassion and they don’t attach to it in the same way but that’s a process. That’s not always a quick fix. It can be holding space too for the feelings of saying, “That was not okay. She did that. That sucked.”

Have them see both sides of the story and analyze it, instead of judging that other person or the situation.

I like to first hold space for her feelings and be like, “That sucked. That’s not okay,” and then come at it like, “What do you think that girl is like,” not with fixing energy. It’s that genuine curiosity energy that has no secret agenda. You have an agenda of helping her see the other side of it and she can feel the difference. That’s the other thing. Teenage girls can read you like crazy. That’s to not be underestimated as well. They know when you are lying, half lying, or admitting. I have a whole chapter on radical honesty because it’s their superpower. The more you can be so real with them about stuff and say the truth, they’ll respect it.

I always battle with even with her clothing and stuff like that, the difference between being dressed classy. Where has the class gone? Maybe what class meant to me is different than what it is. I don’t know.

She’s going to experience that word differently.

I should ask her, “What does that mean for you,” to dive into those questions.

When I talk closely with girls, I’ll ask that. I’ll be like, “Is that classy? What do you think? Is that showing off your sexuality? Is that about being pretty? Is that about being trendy? Is that being about hip? What is this? I want to understand it.”

“Or just fitting in?” It’s not even what you like. They would have to say that but interesting. I’m also dealing with a situation, which I know a lot of other moms are too, with Snapchat. Snapchat is the one app that we cannot control. They have supposed parental control things but they charge $50 to $80 a month because they know that they have parents right there. They’re willing to do anything to control their Snapchat. What is a healthy relationship with parents having parental controls on their kids’ social media? My daughter resents me for it. I’m so much more strict. I like it but I don’t because she resents me for it. I’m trying. That’s why I have you here because I’m one of those moms who need help.

I get it. It’s a similar conversation that I had about social media. It’s that same dynamic. That resentment that she already has is that I would work to clear that out first. Oftentimes, you can be like, “I read this book. I want to try something new to switch this up because what we’re doing isn’t working.” Ask her, “Do you have resentment about this for me?” I don’t want you to have resentment.

Deep down inside she doesn’t. We have a great relationship.

Resentment is super normal. I’m not saying that would be normal. Asking it and bringing it into the light where you’re being truthful with her about it has always been the best approach that I’ve seen. You can always frame it as like, “You might not trust me right away because I’m going to try something new but that’s what I want to do. I want to try this differently with you.” There’s that with the hope that you guys will have a better conversation that creates a dynamic you want better with her relationship with Snapchat or we may have to let go of some things that are not in our control for this teenage generation.

It’s so hard. What about the parental controls?

I don’t know the intricacies of the parental controls on Snapchat at the same level.

It’s very difficult and confusing to me.

I cannot give technical advice.

I don’t mean that. How much involvement should we have?

It’s always going to be specific to you and your daughter, what works for you too.

We decide together kind of thing. I can come at it with that.

Rather than a set rule of like, “This is how it’s done.” They’re not going to respond well to that. It is about co-creating the rules together.

I remember before we started the episode and I had spoken to you, I said, “Life Masters is usually about people that have hit rock bottom and got out of it,” but I wanted you on the show because I know you help a lot of teenage girls out of there, what they would feel is going through a very tough time in their life. You had also expressed to me that you’ve gone through the whole process of healing your mother’s wounds. It’s true.

I respect the rock bottom in general. It’s hard for people to change without experiencing pain. Unfortunately, pain is the best teacher, and that creates scary choices. Like our brain likes to stay the same and what feels safe and comfortable, even though it’s not necessarily good for us. To make those changes takes a lot of bravery.

For me, what happened was so many of my teenage girl wounds inside of me like people pleasing, self-doubt, perfectionism, shame, and relationships with my body and beauty all set up shop in my teenage years. I carried them into womanhood. When I started working with these girls, they would get triggered. They would reflect. I would see myself in them and I see it with moms too when they’re triggered by their daughters. Usually, it’s their thing, story, and trigger.

Lessons From Teenage Girls

Usually, the most helpful things I can do as much as we’re trying to be practical about social media, what I’ve learned is the only thing that’s truly in your control is yourself and your healing. The more we don’t project our stories onto a girl, because lots of times, girls are like, “That’s not my story.” That’s why she wants to feel heard first. She’s like, “Listen to how I’m experiencing this differently,” instead of our version of classy that we’re projecting on.

In terms of making that personal for me, I had to grapple with what unmet needs I had during my teenage years for my mom, my parents, and so on. What type of affirmation I got then, I was very affirmed for being high achieving. I thought if I was perfect enough, got all the perfect grades, and was successful in life, then everything would be okay. I would live a life with no pain, which is not true. We’re all going to live a life with pain in it because it’s our teacher.

I had to do my healing work for my inner teenage girl, which the book lends for women who don’t have children, the amount of women in their twenties who love the book because they feel still so connected to that inner teenage girl and how badly she needs a voice or how badly she needs to feel understood. The more that I started healing myself, the more I was able to show up for the girls the exact way that they needed me to show up for them.

We all know. We go through it. This is the question I was thinking about too that I thought would be interesting. You talk a lot about how moms can reframe the way that they relate to their daughters to fill the gap. What do you think are things that you could say to the teenage girls towards their parents?

I come at it with compassion, usually too. I do a lot of similar stuff like, “Why do you think your mom is acting like that? Do you think she’s scared? Do you think she’s trying to protect you?” I’ll ask her to analyze the intention of her mom and where that’s coming from to create compassion. When I do that and they realize what the mom’s intention is, that it’s a good intention and coming from their fear or pain, they can often release a little bit from it. I do it with anyone.

The more we can have compassion about a person’s experience, the better empathy. Empathy is a superpower in general that teenage girls have a lot of and is a powerful quality that we are underestimating. I talk about it in the power chapter at the end, how much we love to put a value on these ideas of power, which are oppression, domination, self-interest, wealth, and status. I’m so over that.

Empathy is a superpower that I think teenage girls have a lot of and is a powerful quality. Click To Tweet

What is powerful is empathy, care, generosity, and love. That’s the most powerful force. The more we can always bring people back to that type of compassion and love, that’s what’s going to be powerful for them. I’m always helping a teenage girl look through that type of lens and a lens of courage in a way that they can speak up, say what they need, who they are, and say out loud what their inner voice and intuition are saying rather than what society is telling them that they should be.

We’re spending all this time talking about clothes. Why parents don’t want their kids to go, especially a 13-year-old to 18-year-old to go to a party because deep down inside, we’re worried like, “What happens if she gets raped? What happens if she gets gang raped at a party or she gets roofied? What if she gets pregnant and she’s 15? It changes her life and our life.” That is where the root of this all comes from. We want to steer her in the right direction.

What is powerful is empathy, care, generosity, and love. That's the most powerful force. Click To Tweet

That is so valid because the numbers for sexual assault are horrifying. It’s valid to have that fear and want to protect. What I want to bring attention to though is that the story of shaming girls for their clothes has not worked. It’s been the same old story forever. What we need to focus on is why this male violence epidemic is happening in the first place.

That’s where we go way more upstream to how we parent boys and let a full spectrum of their emotions. Often, they’re taught they can feel one emotion, which is anger. Anger tends to play out in violence. What I have seen is when I talk to girls about sexual assault, I’ll be real with them. Everyone’s only talking about their clothes and no one’s saying the real statistics of what’s happening and saying, “How can we be a part of that solution of ending violence?” When they hear that, they get so lit up about it.

When we talk about sexual assault on college campuses, I have empowered girls who create clubs and organizations on their college campuses that help this epidemic. There are nonprofits that like to know more and things that engage boys on college campuses that could be helpful. What if we spent a ton of energy on that instead of us sitting around talking for so long about how distressing it is that your girl is wearing something that seems slutty. If our intention is to protect them, let’s go to the place where we can start protecting them because the shame hasn’t worked.

What I worried about as a mom too is that there is a gap. There’s also the bridge between the then and the now. There are always a few casualties along the way to create such change. Here I am, I’m in the midst of having a 13-year-old daughter. I want her safe.

I talked to girls about things like sexual assault pretty early on in a way that’s intellectual and not in a way that’s fear-based. We talk about statistics. I’ll do workshops on it and stuff. I will respect them intellectually in a conversation about the state of affairs of the world. They usually, honestly, are like, “This is bad. What could I do to be a part of the solution?” They want to be a part of ending it. They often feel pretty crazy that no one is talking about that.

It’s true. We are but we’re not. We’re focusing on their clothes.

We’re also underestimating the boys and their being a part of the solution. I have plenty of boys. I’ve worked with those who don’t want this. They don’t want to be a part of it but they feel way pressured. It’s the constrictive man box that they call it with a call to men of them not showing every emotion, cannot be weak, have to be in control, have to put on a show of being a player, and so on. They don’t feel their full humanity in that narrative. How do we open up space for people to be way more authentically connected to the truth of what’s happening rather than control and fear?

That’s going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of people to get involved. It’s a beautiful thing that you’re doing. Do you have workshops for moms and daughters or parents and daughters? I cannot find one anywhere.

I’ve had some people reach out. I’m figuring all this out in my journey. I have been on a very fast explosion with this book. I’ve been trying to listen though. I appreciate you asking. Listen to what the needs are and how I can fill certain gaps of information and help.

I have researched. There are very few mom-daughter retreats. I cannot even find one.

It’s always good to know. I’m figuring it out. People can reach out to me on social media and tell me how I can help them. I’m here for it.

I’m going to make sure that my daughter reads this episode.

Teenage girls were involved in the book. I quote them throughout. They chose the chapter titles. They helped edit drafts of it. They have signed off and vetted this book. Usually, when girls hear me speak or they see the book, they feel that energy where they’re like, “She’s on my team.” I’m on the teenage girl’s team here. As much as I’m here to help parents and stuff, that’s the way it’s going to work because if the girl feels like I’m advocating for her, then she’s going to trust what I’m saying and the different dynamic I’m trying to set up. That’s when things are going to change in a good way. She watches this and she’s like, “I don’t know.” I’m okay with that.

She’s going to like it.

I’m glad.

This is going to be great.

I was on a plane sitting next to two teenage girls and I was showing them my news segment I had done for NBC News. I was like, “What do you think? Did I make that good point? Do you agree with that?”

She’s going to love it. That’s what I mean. She needs to read your book. We’ll read it together.

Moms and daughters have been reading it together. What’s beautiful is that it creates a container to talk about difficult topics that wouldn’t come up naturally. A mom would feel awkward bringing it up. Instead, it sets almost guidelines for the discussion in a way that the girl feels safe to talk about where she can reference it and be like, “You know how Chelsey said.” Let me speak first.

She will do that. I know that you mentioned that the toughest chapter to write was the one on compliments and beauty. They tie together in a way. Talk about that.

Beauty was hard because I had to find so much of my healing and relationship to beauty. I had rejected beauty. I was like, “I’m smart, kind, and funny.” It would hide my beauty for so long in shame because I didn’t want my worth to be defined by it. Teenage girls love hair, makeup stuff, and fashion. Instead of judging them, I realized that it’s this beautiful exploration of identity and expression of identity.

Instead of judging them, I realized that it's this beautiful exploration of identity and expression of identity. Click To Tweet

I learned from them because I didn’t judge them for it. “I could find what kind of clothes I like that feel authentic to me.” It’s about authenticity at the end of the day. That was when I understood there are cheesy things like inner beauty, self-love, and things that are hard to latch onto. You have to find them for yourself. I quote a teenage girl in there about what is beauty. I asked girls like, “What is beauty?” I love their answers. One talked about how it’s the energy that we share.

That is so wise. There are so many wise comments like that. In terms of compliments, so often we’re complimenting each other on, “I love your outfit,” very books-oriented compliments. Women do it. It’s part of women’s culture to do it. We tend to brush them off also and not be able to receive them. To me, the compliments chapter is one of the most practical, helpful chapters.

I liked it a lot.

A lot of people don’t see it coming because it’s how we affirm people in a way that they feel seen, understood, valued, and celebrated in a way that brings out their authenticity and best self. That’s connected to who they are.

It’s a stereotypical way of what somebody should look like before you compliment them.

It has a lot to do with increasing the specificity of your compliments. Looking to see what they are uniquely doing, giving voice to that, saying it out loud, and saying it with three sentences, not a quick like, “You’re amazing.” Make it longer, more frequent, more specific, and then bring true genuine enthusiasm to it. Teenage girls love enthusiasm. They so often get dismissed as silly and superficial with all their exclamation points. I’m like, “Why?” It’s beautiful. Why are we doing that? Let’s have more enthusiasm in the world.

Is there anything else that you would like to mention or say before we finish up? I could sit here and ask you 25,000 more questions. Anything that you feel people should know?

I took these lessons that I learned from teenage girls and I am applying them to everyone. Yes, there are very practical tools on how a mom can better connect with her daughter or dad also but what excites me is more what they have to offer about communication and experiencing a full humanity, connecting to your authenticity, and what is a liberated state for a girl or a woman to live in? Those are the things I’m excited about sharing with a mass general audience that we can learn from teenage girls how we should not be judging people and how we should be approaching them with curious compassion. That’s how we change the world.

I cannot thank you enough for coming to the studio here at Studio Place LA and for being on my show.

Thank you for asking so many heartfelt questions. Thank you.

Thank you for doing what you’re doing. It is changing the world. It’s changing how people think about teenagers and how we interact with them. I love it. Thank you.


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