On May 5 at Southern Methodist University, Dallas Women’s Foundation hosted more than 300 middle school and high school girls at the annual #BestSelf leadership event. A program of Dallas Women’s Foundation’s Leadership Initiative, #BestSelf helped build future leaders by empowering young girls to be their best selves through programs that teach them (and adults) about themselves, how to build stronger relationships, healthy approaches to conflict, and how to use their voices as they pursue gender equality in school, in life and in society.
Throughout the event, girls took leadership roles in making announcements and leading the panel discussions. The Foundation’s Leadership Initiative is committed to advancing and increasing the number of women and girls in leadership.
During the panel discussion, the participants heard from three keynote speakers who answered questions from the two student moderators about friendships, gossip, failure and embracing one’s gifts and talents to be their best self.
Rachel Simmons, author of Enough As She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy and Fulfilling Lives, and the New York Times best-sellers Odd Girl Out and The Curse of the Good Girl, gave this advice: “Everyone has a purpose, and you have to figure it out, and then the crazy goes down.”
Tiffany Dufu, named to Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women and co-founder and CEO of THE CRU, gave this advice: “All the things I used to get teased for when I was young are now all my super powers.”
Alicia Menendez, journalist, multimedia storyteller and named “Broadcast Journalism’s New Gladiator” by Elle, a “Content Queen” by Marie Claire, and “Ms. Millennial” by The Washington Post, gave this advice about failure after she received her first B+ in college: “If you don’t know how to approach something, you have to ask.” She ended up graduating with honors.
Menendez’ breakout session, Likeability, took a critical look at what people gain by striving to be well-liked, what that can cost them, and what they might gain when they learn to care less.
Dufu’s breakout session, What I Wish I Had’ve Known When I Was Thirteen, talked about embracing what makes each girl special and surrounding herself with people who can help her to be her best version.
In Simmons’ breakout session, Enough As She Is, she translated the toxic messages about achievement that girls have internalized, and taught parents and educators the tools to help girls practice self-compassion, redefine success, pursue purpose, and—most importantly—let them know they are enough as they are.
The participants commented that the most valuable lessons they learned were “try not to care what others think about you and be yourself,” and “it’s okay to fail as you learn from your mistakes.”
After the sessions, the participants received a tour of SMU.