By Lisa Sugarman

As the mother of two girls, I don’t speak boy at all. Never have. Not a word. Aside from being with my husband for the last thirty-plus years, I’ve got no idea what the hell goes on in a boy’s head. But, because I’m obviously girl, and I happen to have two of them as kids, I speak fluent Sheila.

And thanks to a lifetime’s worth of exposure to the girl mind—over forty-five years as one myself and almost twenty as a girl mom—I get how we’re all wired. Especially the emotional challenges most of us go through as we navigate through school and puberty and relationships and life as a whole.

We’re nurturing and kind and courageous and confident and sensitive and loving, among other things. We’re also emotional and raw and paranoid and judgy and dramatic and bitchy and two-faced, among other things.

Yet all that stuff—the good and the bad—is timeless when you’re a girl. Doesn’t matter what era we grew up in, some version of all those things still applies. Like, even in spite of the fact that my daughters and I grew up almost four decades apart, facing some very different challenges and attitudes, I still get how tough it is to manage being a girl. Those are everlasting challenges.

Because as much as being a girl is beautiful, it can also suck. Especially when we’re young and just starting out. But it doesn’t suck forever and that’s the thing all girls need to remember. We evolve. We figure stuff out. We eventually find our purpose and our rhythm and our tribe. We just need to keep our eyeballs focused on what’s really important as we go. But that’s not always easy.

So I want to share with my girls (and yours too) some of the most important truths I’ve learned about what’s really important in life.

See, as much as society evolves from generation to generation, the core of the human experience is still the same. Even though each new generation faces different challenges, the basics are still the same. We live, we love, we hope, we dream, and we all move through life trying desperately to connect with the people who’ll bring out the very best in us and love us unconditionally for as long as we’re here. And I think all girls need to know that. They need to understand that each of us, regardless of who we are, has the exact same core—we all want to be accepted and respected and loved.

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But it’s tricky for all of us—especially when we’re kids—to keep all those things in mind. To find the right people. To be our own kind of beautiful. To be ourselves. To listen to our hearts (or to our parents), and keep what’s important in life squarely in focus. And every single one of us struggles to find our way at some point. Until, hopefully, one day, the clouds part and everything becomes clear.

So I say this to all girls, especially my own…

There are a handful of timeless things I’ve learned about life that you need to learn too. And the sooner you learn them, the happier and more prepared you’ll be.

  1. We all know how it feels to sit alone in the cafeteria, wishing someone would notice us and invite us to sit with them. So reach out to people, because they’ll always appreciate it and they will reach back.
  2. The people who tease or belittle you are not your friends. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you.
  3. People will pass into and out of your life. And the ones you thought would be there forever will surprise you when they leave; and the ones you expected would leave, will surprise you when they stay.
  4. There’s always going to be someone thinner or taller or faster or smarter than you. Don’t ever compare yourself to the people around you because the only person you need to impress is you.
  5. Don’t ever let anyone convince you that you can’t. Because you can.
  6. Family is everything, even though they can be irritating as hell. Because DNA is way thicker than water. We’ve always got each other’s back and we’re there for the long and bumpy haul.
  7. Every single one of us knows what it’s like to feel sad or hurt or alone. You need to treat people the way you want to be treated yourself.
  8. You need to own what you say and what you do because those things define who you are. So you need to put your best self out there in the world, every day of your life.
  9. And life is way shorter than any of us realizes. Be exceedingly good to the people you love and the people who love you. Show them and tell them often and pay attention to each other. Because it matters.

Remember, this is only a partial list. And we’re all just a work in progress, learning as we go. But these are solid blocks to build on that will carry you most of the way. That, and keeping a spare tampon in the side pocket of your purse at all times. Then, there’s nothing you can’t handle.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at www.lisasugarman.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available on Amazon.com and at select bookstores.

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