Emily Roberts created her website The Guidance Girl and her book “Express Yourself: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are” to give the kind of advice she would have loved to have growing up around the Austin area and going to Dripping Springs High School.
Now 33, the psychotherapist with a masters degree from St. Edward’s University, splits her time between Austin and New York, where she runs therapy groups for girls. She’ll be in town Nov. 5 as a keynote speaker at the We Are Girls Conference from Girls Empowerment Network, GEN Austin. About 2,000 girls in third through eighth grades are expected to attend the all-day event at Austin High School.
Roberts’ message to girls is clear: Stop being afraid to speak up for yourself. To do that she gives girls tools and language to use in “Express Yourself.”
The book came after working as a therapist in Austin and seeing what girls were facing. She calls herself “more of a mentor than a traditional therapist.” She found that girls were trusting her and letting her into their world, but she says “it’s not a place you want to be at their age.”
She wanted to help change the world when it came to what girls were experiencing, but to do that, she says, “I needed a bigger platform to make the change I wanted to make.”
She moved to New York to take courses on writing and social media. And she also started working with girls in individual and group therapy settings there, too.
She created a her blog to provide information to girls about how to be confident and to help their parents navigate what was going on in their daughters’ world both real and virtual.
The more she wrote, the more she saw that the resources girls had were not effective. Girls didn’t know how to stand up for themselves. They worried about losing friends if they disagreed. They worried about feeling left out or not fitting in because of thoughts they saw as unique to them. They didn’t know how to negotiate with other girls or with boys. They felt anxious about it all.
They went to bed at night feeling guilty that they did not express themselves, that they were not confident.
“I made it my goal to have these conversations,” Roberts says. “Here are a few different tools so you can say what you need.”
She teaches girls that it’s OK to have emotions, but you need to know how to process those emotions, somthing that often isn’t taught. “The key is finding your power, your authenticity,” she says.
Often, girls know what they need to do. Roberts says she often bites her tongue and lets them answer their own questions. “You’ve got to give them the room to figure it out,” she says.
One of the biggest lessons she teaches is how to handle texting and social media. “It’s your reputation,” she says. “Pause before you press send, pause before you post, put the phone down, it’s the most powerful thing you can do.”
PAUSE is also an acronym:
P: Put down the phone or the mouse for just a second.
A: Ask yourself what your intention — your desired result — is for what you’re about to text or post. Is the intention a positive one or a negative one?
U: Urge surf. Just like a wave comes crashing down, an urge will lose its momentum if you give it a moment, and then you’ll be able to think more clearly.
S: Say it out loud. Other people will hear your comment as if it’s in your voice. Try it with a mean tone and then with a nicer tone. Which way do you think it will be heard?
E: Edit. Before pressing send, make any changes you need to make to your message in order to be clearly understood. Add an emoticon to indicate your tone, delete words that are too forceful, or delete the whole message and start over.
Even though her book is geared towards preteen and teenage girls, a lot of adults could use this advice, too.
When she goes to schools or groups and gives talks, she often asks for girls to write down questions they have. One of the questions that she gets is “how do I get my mom off the phone?” She also gets: “My mom drives and texts but gets mad at me when I remind her not to.” Or “What do I do when I can’t get my mom to hear me?”
You see, parents are multitaskers, “and moms are the best multitaskers in the planet,” Roberts says, but kids need physical signs that you are listening to them. They need you to give them undivided attention.
We Are Girls Conference
When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 5
Where: Austin High School, 1715 W. Cesar Chavez St.
Tickets: $30 for girls grades 3-8 and their parents