Don’t Get In The Box • ep. 099

A teen or tween girl sits squished inside a box sitting on its side, pushing against the top.

The Barbie Box

I wanna start out by describing a part in the Barbie movie (don’t worry, no spoilers). After Barbie journeys from Barbieland to the real world, in one scene the Mattel CEO almost shouts at her, “Get in the box!”–like the box a Barbie doll is packaged in. However, I believe there was more symbolism intended beyond the literal interpretation of that scene.

How People Try to Box Us

Some people try to put us in a box, figuratively. They do this by:

  • Stereotyping us because we’re girls–like emotional, weak, or needy
  • Labeling girls differently than they do for boys, like bossy instead of a leader
  • Telling us we can’t be good at or even do certain things because we’re girls
  • Saying we can’t pursue our dream because they think we should be something else
  • Objecting to us being two things at once, like if they think we’re pretty we can’t also be smart; or if we choose to have kids, they think we can’t also choose to have a career

These people try to convince us their boxes are where we fit, where we belong, and where we should stay.

Girls, don’t get in the box. Let me tell you why.

You Don’t Belong In A Box

First, you don’t fit in a box, you don’t belong in a box. You are multifaceted and dimensional like a polyhedron–you’re prismatic, or a pyramid, or a dodecahedron. You can look them up. What I mean is, you have many sides to you and were never meant to fit into a box–none of us were–because we are all unique and individual. Putting us all in a box would make us all the same, and that’s not the goal. Plus that would be boring and stifling and wrong. You are the only you and the only one who can be you. You don’t have to get in a box. You don’t fit in a box, you don’t belong in a box.

You are Allowed to Grow

You are also allowed to change, grow, and evolve. We are human, and evolution is in our nature–we have been evolving since the dawn of time. If we are expected to stay the same, how will we ever grow? Take plants for example. Plants in containers never grow to their full potential. The roots will just take the shape of the pot, and the plant becomes a smaller version of itself, never knowing what it could become. Plants need space to spread their roots and expand outward and upward. And you do too. You don’t have to get in a box. You are allowed to change, grow, and evolve.

You Don’t Need to Meet Others’ Expectations

Finally, you are not required to meet someone else’s expectations of who you should be. This is different from your parents giving you rules and responsibilities. I’m talking about giving up who you truly are to be who someone wants you to be. Remember, you have many sides to you, and you shouldn’t have to fold yourself up just to fit into boxes that other people created. I used to be a chronic people pleaser, and constantly trying to contort myself so I fit into a mold that would earn others’ approval was not fulfilling at all, it was not a way to live. You don’t have to get in a box. You are not required to meet someone else’s expectations of who you should be.

Girls Who Didn’t Get In A Box

Here are some real life examples of girls who didn’t get in a box:

At age 14, Australian Jade Hameister became the youngest person to ski to the North Pole from anywhere outside the Last Degree. In 2016 she gave a TEDX Talk about her experience and encouraged girls to chase their dreams. But some internet trolls (presumably dudes) left comments on the video, saying “make me a sandwich”–a mean and misogynistic phrase used to undermine successful girls and women. But she didn’t let the trolls stop her. The following year Jade skied across the Greenland ice sheet, and in 2018 she skied to the South Pole, becoming the youngest person to complete the Polar Hat Trick. While trekking to the South Pole, Jade and her team joked about making a sandwich. And then she did just that, posting a picture of her holding a sandwich next to the South Pole with the caption, “I skied back to the Pole again … to take this photo for all those men who commented ‘Make me a sandwich,’ on my TEDX Talk. I made you a sandwich (ham and cheese), now ski 37 days and 600km to the South Pole and you can eat it xx”

For the first 70 years of the Boston Marathon, only men had competed. While there was no official rule barring women, people thought women couldn’t run that far, or that they shouldn’t because it would make them muscular. But in 1967, a 20-year old woman named Katherine Switzer signed up for the race. Running made her “feel free and powerful,” and she had trained to run the 26.2 miles. Since Katherine used her initials on the entry form, no officials could tell she wasn’t a man. On the day of the marathon it wasn’t until after the race started, nearly 4 miles in, that a race director noticed Katherine–a woman–was running. He chased after her, grabbed her, and yelled at her, “Get [ ] out of my race and give me those numbers!” (the race bib numbers). But Katherine kept running, thanks to an assist by both her running coach and her boyfriend. She knew she deserved to be there and that she could do it. Katherine Switzer finished the Boston Marathon and revolutionized women’s sports in the US. 

There are countless more girls and women who didn’t get in the box. Here are just a few more:

As her ballet career took off in the early 1940s, Maria Tallchief, a Native American of the Osage Nation, was urged to change her last name to Tallchiva to sound Russian or European so dance companies wouldn’t discriminate against her. But Maria was proud of her Native American heritage, so she didn’t change her name. And her success continued–she danced with the world’s top ballet companies, and became America’s first Native American Prima Ballerina. Later on in her life she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and received many other honors, including being featured on the US $1 coin and quarter. 

How about Oprah Winfrey, who got her start in TV as a news anchor and reporter in the 80s. But her bosses told her she was “the wrong color, the wrong size, and that [she] showed too much emotion.” She was then demoted to cohost a talk show, but quickly realized she loved it. In this role, her emotions were a strength. That show was popular for years, and then Oprah hosted her very own talk show for 25 seasons. Oprah also became an actress, author, TV producer, media proprietor and was the first Black woman billionaire.

Don’t Listen to Box People

Too often girls and women are told to get in the box because some people don’t think they’re smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, tough enough, girly enough, motherly enough, boss enough, or some other not enough to them. But you do not have to conform, you do not have to fold yourself up, you do not have to play small just to fit in someone else’s box to please them. Don’t listen to people who keep telling you to get in a box. You are the creator of your own life. You are the author of your story. You get to decide who you want to be, and what you want to do, and why you want to do that, and when you want that to happen. Because you don’t belong in a box.

Don’t Get In The Box Poster Printable

I created an “Don’t Get In The Box” poster for you to print out, personalize, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.

Don't Get In The Box Poster Printable


Also if you have social media, here are some “girls that didn’t get in a box” accounts I follow that you could check out:

Emily Callendrelli–MIT engineer, TV host, author, mother @TheSpaceGal
Togethxr–brand hyping girls in sports @Togethxr 
Kelly Yang–New York Times Bestselling Author of the “Front Desk” series @kellyyanghk
If/Then She Can–empowering girls in STEM @ifthenshecan 
Kellie Gerardi–Astronaut, author, mother @kelliegerardi
Built By Girls–preparing for careers in tech @builtbygirls
Etre–many more “Epic Mentors” @etregirls

If you have a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to .

If you have social media already, follow me on Insta or tiktok @empowerfulgirls. I’m not encouraging or endorsing social media, but I’m on there to offer an unfiltered, uplifting alternative to what’s in your feed. Remember to get on the email list for the newsletter!

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