Monday

Simplify Your Life: The Girl Talk Guide to Decluttering Your Heart & Home

Last Saturday was “National Toss Away the ‘Could Haves’ and ‘Should Haves’ Day,” and it reminded us of the importance—and difficulty-- of decluttering and simplifying your life, inside and out.

We decided to share a few of our favorite tips for simplifying your life, but first, here are a couple of questions to think about...
  • Does anyone else find decluttering exceptionally difficult? It shouldn’t be, right? It seems easy enough to decide that you don’t use or need something any more, and throw or give it away. Then why is it so hard?
  • Why do we only think about getting rid of physical clutter that is in our way, making our daily lives more of a struggle? Why don’t we think about the emotional and mental clutter that we allow ourselves to live with and carry around?
Though there’s probably not one right answer to either of these questions, they’re certainly things to consider.

Maybe decluttering the physical stuff is hard because we’re afraid that we’ll need the things we get rid of and regret having given them away...or because we have an emotional attachment to them.

Maybe it’s that we hide behind the clutter—we use it as an excuse not to go after and do the things we really want. Having an excuse makes it easier to avoid facing our fear of failing at the things we want (and if that’s the case, let’s revisit our project of reframing failure).

Whatever the case, there's a reason that that bestseller book is called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

We can all agree that the physical, mental, and emotional clutter can be overwhelming, and it isn’t helping anyone move forward to live the life they want to live--so how do we get rid of it? 

How do we simplify to make more room for what’s helpful and important to us?

 Here are some of our best tips for simplifying the physical clutter...




As for the emotional clutter, the negative thoughts and feelings that we carry around with us every day that weigh us down...

Let go and forgive yourself.

As women, we can “woulda, coulda, shoulda” ourselves all day long, but all that does is add to the clutter.

Lists can help here, too, but decluttering this part of your life can be even more difficult. It’s all about identifying what the clutter is, and letting go of it.

This won’t happen in a day either, but you can start any time!  Like decluttering in real life, you just have to decide to start.

We recommend writing down those negative thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc. to identify them, and taking a moment to reflect. While you’re reflecting on the negative, think about the positive, and decide what positive changes you want to make in the way you think and feel.

Write the positive changes down, and throw away the negative list. Literally! Let go of all that weight and refuse to give it the power to control you.

Then take another look at your positive list, and think about concrete ways that you can make those positives a reality. (Write those down too if you’re feeling really crazy!)

It may take some time to truly let go of those negative things, but you will feel lighter and it will make everything else feel more manageable.

Remember, however big or small your project, wherever you start, it will take time.

So remind yourself why you’re doing it—to simplify your life and make room and time for what matters to you. And allow yourself the time to do it, it’s not selfishness, it’s self-love, self-defense, and self-care. 

...

Let us know if your find these tips helpful, and please share your own best practices for simplifying your life with us in the comments! 

Love + simplicity,
Katherine

Tuesday

#ScholarshipSpotlight: Darya Khani, Ron Bell Inspirational Leader of the Year


Congratulations to Darya Khani, one of our Ron Bell Inspirational Leaders of the Year! We are so proud of you, and so excited to share your story of self-love, strength, and inspiration with the Girl Talk community!

“Finding myself was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I didn’t realize I had darker skin than most people, until someone pointed it out to me in middle school. I didn’t know my name was so unusual from the “norm” til some told me. I didn’t know my heritage and ancestry was “frowned” upon til someone told me.

These words were shared to me in middle school. Unfortunately, I believed it. And I am not the only one who believed what a bully said. I believed that I wasn’t the same as everyone else. Thus, I shouldn’t demand the same respect as everyone else. I was convinced people didn’t want to talk to me because I didn’t look the same.

Nevertheless, one Wednesday morning in Middle School I was pushed along to this club called Girl Talk. Little did I know the profound affect it would leave upon me. As soon as I stepped foot into the Girl Talk room, I felt this sense of belonging and tenderness I hadn’t before. The high school leaders greeted me with a warm welcome and escorted me to the donut line. I picked myself a strawberry sprinkle donut and continued to my chair where I would sit and stare, in awe of what the Girl Talk leaders were talking about. The topic of the week was Acceptance. My eyes awakened as I listened so carefully to what they were preaching. The Girl Talk leaders mentioned how the greatest gift you can give someone is unconditional love and acceptance. The idea of unconditional love and acceptance would play a huge role in my upbringing.

The awe factor I received on my first day at Girl Talk made me want to come back for more. I made it a weekly priority to attend Girl Talk in the morning. In fact, I made my dad drop me off at school early enough to be the first to pick my donut and listen to the Girl Talk meeting in whole.

Week by week I would learn about a new topic. These topics evoked so much curiosity in me. Through my middle school years in Girl Talk I learned how to be a good friend, listener, and overall better person. My final days as a middle schooler I had a better sense of who I was and what I stood for, and I owed it all to Girl Talk.

Approaching high school I was eager to join Girl Talk. It would be my first year as a high school Girl Talk leader. This brought me so much joy watching the middle schoolers grow and understand what Girl Talk was about. I made it a mission to impact a girls’ life like the high school leaders did to mine in middle school.

High School flew by and before you knew it I was the Head Leader of Girl Talk at my Holy Innocent’ Episcopal School Chapter as a junior. Inspired by the middle schoolers and my studies as a high schooler, I developed a 2 hour seminar to teach girls the importance of coding! 

You may ask, what does this have to do with anything? Well, I wanted to impact the middle school girls in another way. I taught them how to handle sticky situations, how to be a good friend, and be confident. But I hadn’t yet mentored them in studies. I wanted to share with the girls the importance of school. The privilege of an education. And the value of coding in the world we live in today. I am happy to say the planning for the 2nd Annual Girls who Code is underway.





As I reflect on my Girl Talk journey, I finally realized who I am and what I stand for. I realized that I am lucky enough to be different, so I shouldn’t change myself. I am a proud Iranian girl with strong dark genes that stand out in a crowd! My name is Darya Khani. I love who I have become!

Girl Talk brought the best out in me. It made me become conscience of the value of my diversity and the worth of my word. I hope to help every girl realize the beaming light that lives inside them and their individual beauty.

From leading the Student Diversity Leadership Council at my school to volunteering at the Atlanta Community Food Bank I have a passion for giving back. Thus, I am honored to be the recipient of the Ron Bell Family Foundation Inspirational Leader Award.

As I continue my journey at University of Georgia with the Presidential Leadership Scholarship, I aim to uphold high morals and always give back. I am very excited to begin my journey in college as a Biology major in pursuit to give back as a doctor someday. Go Dawgs! And Go Girl Talk!”

Thank you, Darya, for having the courage to make Girl Talk a part of your journey and to share your journey to understanding and embracing who you are. We could not be more proud or grateful for you and all you have done to spread the Girl Talk mission, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!


#ScholarshipSpotlight: Hanna Meyers, Ron Bell Inspirational Leader of the Year


Congratulations to Hanna Meyers, one of our Ron Bell Inspirational Leaders of the Year! We are constantly blown away by this young woman and are so excited to have her share her story with us!


"If someone had told me at nine years old that I would love being a camp counselor, would go on to co-lead the camp twice, and would start a corresponding chapter at my school as an underclassman, never in a million years would I have believed that person.

In fifth grade, the middle school counselor distributed flyers for a Girl Talk camp, and being nine, I read “arts and crafts” and decided that I wanted to sign up. I was too shy to ask my friends to join me, so I attended camp by myself. Just one week of camp was enough to change my world, and I wanted to start a chapter so I could share what I learned with my school’s community. I returned to camp every summer, and in ninth grade, I became a counselor for the first time. I was eager to be behind the scenes of all the “Girl Talk magic,” but I was terrified of being in the spotlight. I ended up loving Girl Talk even more, and I signed up for as many Girl Talk-related events as I could, including the LeaderU summit to Washington, D.C., in July 2014 and the LeadHERship summit to Camp Twin Lakes in Winder, GA, in November 2015.

In spring 2014, I began planning for my chapter, and in the fall of my sophomore year, Galloway Girl Talk (GGT) finally became a reality. GGT was my favorite part of the day for three years, and I poured all the love I had into the chapter so I could inspire girls in the same way that Girl Talk inspired me in sixth grade. As a junior, I joined Girl Talk’s Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and it provided another space for me to learn about effective leadership and to continue to serve Girl Talk outside of camp and GGT. 

In spring 2016, Girl Talk offered me a position as Co-Lead Counselor at camp. I had never even dreamed of having the opportunity to run camp; I thought I was too quiet to be that person, but I realized I was ready to let go of shy, nine-year-old me and embrace the mature, confident leader I had become. On the last day of camp in my second year as Co-Lead Counselor, Girl Talk chose me as the co-recipient of the Ron Bell Family Foundation Inspirational Leader Award, and I am honored to share this huge recognition with Darya Khani, one of the girls I grew up with in Girl Talk.

In high school, I chose a few passions – Girl Talk included – and immersed myself in them. I started a grammar club before starting GGT; was a four-year singles starter on the varsity tennis team and was co-captain as a senior; was a coach for the Universal Tennis Academy for two years; and was an intern for Galloway’s communications department for three years. 

I now attend Elon University where I plan to major in communications design. Outside the classroom, I plan to join Elon’s club tennis team; assist with the yearbook and/or student-run newspaper; and hopefully help Elon’s own communications department and find a position similar to the internship I held at Galloway. In addition, I plan to start a Girl Talk chapter near Elon, and when I have the opportunity to study abroad, I hope to start additional chapters wherever I go.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Before Girl Talk, I let my introversion consume me because I had no idea a “quiet leader” could exist. I relied heavily on my peers to be the first to speak up or to take action. Now, I know a quiet leader is exactly who I am, and through Girl Talk, I found a balance between using my voice and letting others use theirs. But the most fulfilling of all, I am discovering opportunities every day to encourage others to find their balance as well. Thank you, Girl Talk, for believing in me when I did not know how to; for providing the resources I needed to reach the potential I did not know I had; and for changing my life when I thought I would always be quiet. I am so grateful to be able to share my knowledge and inspire the world one girl at a time."

Thank you, Hanna, for welcoming Girl Talk into your life and sharing the light you found inside of you with so many others. We hope you continue this mission, and can't wait to see what wonders the future holds for you!

Friday

Monday Motivation: Turning Failure to Fuel

Failure (noun): lack of success; the omission of expected or required action; see also: “I’m a…” and “Fear of…”

See that second one, “Fear of failure”? Yep, that’s me. It’s also the majority of the people I know. If it’s you, too, this post is for you. 

We need to reframe failure.

There’s something in our society that has convinced us that failure is a bad thing, and made us roll our eyes at motivational speakers who tell us to “Celebrate our failure!” This mindset has made us believe that failure is something to be feared before it happens, and ashamed of afterward, instead of something that is part of our shared human experience.

Maybe it’s our society’s obsession with perfection and that has created this mentality. Maybe it’s our high expectations, or our obsession with “success,” whatever that means.  Maybe it’s something else. Though that’s certainly an interesting origin story, it doesn’t matter so much where this mindset came from, or, really, where it goes.

It just needs to go. And we can be a part of sending our fear of failure out the door.

I started thinking more about this after I saw a story about a new Gatorade commercial called “The Secret to Victory,” on the TODAY Show about the unexpected key to success: failure. Take a look.

(Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored by Gatorade, just inspired by it. 😉)

“You really want to know the secret to victory?” “Defeat.”

The ad features professional athletes like Peyton and Eli Manning, Serena Williams, and Atlanta’s own Matt Ryan confronted by what society has deemed “failures” in their lives and careers, from failing to make the varsity team to losing the Super Bowl, to change the way we think about failure.

For athletes, defeat is literally a part of the game; for all of us, it’s part of the “game of life,” if you will.

It’s normal to let the losses, defeats, and failures get you down. And it’s easy to let them keep you down. The secret is not letting them, and that’s the hard part.

When I was growing up, the movie “A Cinderella Story” came out and, like any die-hard Hilary Duff fan of the early 2000s, I loved it.

The movie is exactly what it sounds like, a modern-day “Cinderella Story,” except this time, she loses her cell phone and, amongst other offenses, the evil stepmother has wallpapered over a quote that Hilary Duff’s baseball-loving father painted on the wall of his diner before he died. Finally, at just the right moment, when things seem most desperate, the wallpaper is torn off the wall, revealing the quote and inspiring Hilary’s character, Sam, to keep going.

The quote, of course, is a classic from baseball all-star Babe Ruth. 

Though I certainly didn’t go on to play baseball, or lose my fear of failure, this quote always gave me something to think about when the fear of failure started to get in my way…and it still does.


In my senior year of college, when I started applying for “real world” jobs, I applied for what I had thought, for years, was my dream job. I was rejected--I failed hard. I then thought I was meant for something similar, but different, so I applied for the next set of “dream jobs” with the same company, fearing that I would fail again. And I did; I was defeated by all of them.


Then I found the job description for my current position at Girl Talk and, though I was afraid that I wouldn’t get the job, the feeling I had when I read the description made me understand why I had be “defeated” by the first few dream jobs. This one felt like the right one for me. And, thankfully, it was. 

I believe that I "failed" because those jobs that I was set on weren't the right ones for me, because there was something that was "more right" out there, waiting for me to discover it. But before I did, it felt like my life had veered off-course.

The perfectionists within us seem to think that if we fail, even just once, our lives will be permanently thrown off-track and we will not be able to accomplish what we want to accomplish, or live the life that we want to live.

I’m happy to tell you that that’s just not true.

Only you have the power to create and control your path. Only you have the power to decide what a "failure" means for you. Your failures don’t have that kind of power.

I’m not telling you that you should never be afraid to fail, or be ashamed when you do, nor am I saying that the fear will suddenly go away or that you should feel “good” about your failures (that would just make you feel like a failure for not feeling good about failing…make sense?).

It’s perfectly okay to fail—it’s normal—as long as you don’t let it define you. Don’t let the fails keep you down or the fears prevent you from "playing the game"--going after your dreams, following your passions, and fighting for what you believe.

Instead, challenge yourself to use defeat as a motivator. It's easier said than done, but take the L, then move on. Keep working and keep trying for future victories, and you’ll start to reclaim and reframe failure and, as Gatorade says, #MakeDefeatYourFuel.

With love and gratitude,

Katherine

p.s. Feel free to share your stories, struggles, and successes in the comments (or email me: katherine@mygirltalk.org), and let me know what you’d like to share or read about—my keyboard is ready and waiting!

#ScholarshipSpotlight: Jathusha "JJ" Mahenthirarajan, National Leader of the Year



Congratulations to Jathusha "JJ" Mahenthirarajan, our 2017 National Leader of the Year! (...Well, technically, our International Leader of the Year--JJ leads the Richmond Hill Girl Talk Chapter in Ontario, Canada!) We are so proud of JJ, and are so excited to share her story with you!

"During my middle school years, I had a tough time navigating mental health issues, friendship drama, bullying, and building self-confidence as I felt unreasonable pressure from the impossible expectation to be everything to everyone at all times. Luckily, I had a mentor in university who helped keep my spirits up, and became the big sister I never had. Years later, when my sister entered middle school and I saw her go through similar issues, I knew something had to be done. Grounded in my mission to create safe spaces for girls to share their innermost deepest thoughts, and explore their identities in a supportive environment, I founded the Richmond Hill Girl Talk chapter in November 2015 with the desire to empower girls with an inclusive, sustainable solution to the issues they were facing.

From Cultural Celebration Day to our monthly Feeling Circles to talent shows for the girls to step out of their comfort zones, I was so proud to see our mentees explore, challenge and take action against issues such as body shaming, racism, hypersexualization, abusive relationships, and peer pressure. For the end-of-the-year visual reflection, one of our 7th graders who struggled with self-image, drew her face and split it in half to demonstrate the before and after of Girl Talk. Using words like “stupid, fat, unwanted, ugly, weird” on one side, and “beautiful, generous, funny, powerful, loved” on the other, it was evident proof of how influential mentorship was redefining the way young girls viewed and believed in themselves. Girl Talk has given me the confidence to stand up for what I believe in, regardless of what other people may think of me. This confidence that I portrayed had a ripple effect.

My passion for equity and vision for justice actualized when I volunteered in the surgical wing of a Kenyan hospital. My strong conviction in giving [the hospital patients] a voice pushed me to act.

After founding Richmond Hill Girl Talk, this experience inspired me to volunteer in SriLanka this past summer at a girls’ orphanage where I implemented a week-long confidence-building program.

Selected among hundreds as a "Because I am a Girl" national spokesperson, I was able to broaden the scope of my vision and spread my message globally. I met with global leaders, such as Cabinet Minister Patricia Hajdu and Madame Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, to discuss obstacles Canadian girls face. This empowered me to look further than my position as Vice President of Student Council, and see myself in politics.

To make sure every woman’s voice was heard, I started a blog, "Community Superwomen”, where I interviewed girls about their dreams, and struggles.

As President of Empowered Student Partnerships, I’ve raised thousands of dollars for women’s shelters, directed social justice films, and held awareness campaigns.

I’ve utilized my voice, performing slam poetry about human rights to thousands of people, winning regional competitions for the past 3 years.

I’ve been involved in other positions such as Minister of External Affairs of Youth Health Club, Head of Mentorship for my school’s leadership conference, Prefect, and as an Event Coordinator for nonprofits.

Inspired by all these experiences, I founded my youth-led grassroots community organization, L.I.G.H.T. (Lead Inspire Grow Hope Transform) where we’ve run book drives, free art camps, mental health walks, and volunteering mentorship programs for marginalized children and youth.

This fall, I will be entering York University in Toronto, where I will be studying human rights and equity studies. I aspire to work at UN Women, become an international leadership and diversity consultant, and work on changing policies to advance human rights.

Girl Talk has given me the confidence to stand up for what I believe in, and shaped me into the visionary leader, fierce advocate, thoughtful friend, and compassionate human being I am today."

What a story! JJ, you have already changed the world by sharing your fierce passion, huge heart, and unique experience with each person that you meet. Thank you for sharing your story with us. We know it's only just beginning, but feel so fortunate to be a part of your journey and look forward to following the trail you blaze in your next chapters!