Pretty Princess or Wicked Witch

I grew up on stories of pretty princesses and wicked witches. It sometimes seemed that these were the main two options available to women – and who wants to be the wicked witch? We heard some stories of women who pioneered in their fields, of course, but they were certainly not told in Hollywood style or used for the theme of friends’ birthday parties.

Not surprisingly, the stories and role models we grow up with significantly influence our views of ourselves.

According to respected researcher and psychologist, Albert Bandura,

The top two ways we develop self-efficacy are through mastering experiences – trying something new and getting good at it – and watching someone who looks a lot like us master an experience and thinking, ‘If they can do that I probably can too.’

Girls Around the World

  • A study of eighth grade students from various parts of the US found that African American girls have higher levels of self-esteem than Caucasian girls. [1]
  • A fascinating report from the Girl Scouts of America Research Institute a few years ago found that African American and Latina girls are more likely to have leadership aspirations than Caucasian girls [2], and that
  • Latina mothers are much more likely to encourage their daughters to speak up and to lead. [3]

All this suggests that the messages and models of our early years are important.

The journey to our BRAVE is both personal and shared (meaningful friendships are one of the best predictors and protectors of our BRAVE); it is both complex and non linear. It is rooted in our heritage and upbringing. It is influenced by our personality and experiences. Sadly, it is distorted by conflicting messages from media, mean girls (and boys) and the people we most trust. Our BRAVE is found as part of the epic quest of self-discovery and boundary breaking every BRAVE woman fiercely or fearfully makes.



[1] “Monitoring the Future, a Continuing Study of American Youth” conducted by the University of Michigan Survey Research Center in 1999.

[2] The State of Girls: Unfinished Business

[3] Ibid.