Defining Source: Building Identity Instead of Image


When a girl digests the stereotypes she encounters in the world around her, she can develop a false image of self that diminishes her aspirations and limits her potential.

Pride in one’s identity is a potent antidote. When a girl unburdens herself of the (often unconscious) shame she has internalized because of the lower status historically assigned to her by her gender, race, class, or pressure to assimilate, she develops resilience and a feeling of worthiness.  This activity is a firsthand way of beginning to explore history and identity in the face of culture-bound expectations.

Conversation Tips:

Be careful NOT to assume your experiences of discrimination or the stereotypes you encountered growing up are the same. Avoid projecting your experiences on her. Try to stop saying things like, “I know exactly how you feel” and “That happened to me.”  Even if there are similarities, you likely don’t really “know” what she feels. Let her tell you.


  • Develop a deeper understanding of what truly makes her who she is - her history, beliefs and identities
  • Develop a fresh understanding of stereotypes she has experienced as discriminatory and harmful and those experiences and people that help her gain pride in her true identities

Do This Together:

1.  Inspired by George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From" poem, print out this template from Freeology and fill in the blanks accordingly.

2.  Share your poems. Ask her: What did you like and value about the activity? What was difficult or challenging?

3.  Explore the idea of building an image versus building an identity. Ask her: Are there times when you put up a front or false image for others? What are the circumstances? Can you name a time where you experienced a stereotype as discriminatory and harmful? What are times where you are doing experiences that help you show your brightest, most honest self? When’s a time you felt pride because you shared belonging with others based on your values?

4.  Now read Power Source and the skills that it takes to build it. Ask her this closing question: What is a skill you need to develop related to this power? Who can help you?