Step Away From the Box

Molly Barker didn’t think 50-year-old women should wear red boots, but her daughter decided otherwise and bought them for her anyway. Her daughter also wrote messages on the soles like, “I love you so, so, so much.” This act reminded Barker that children can be great teachers, with their wonderful ability to ignore skin color, age and all kinds of other differences.

Rewind to 1971. Barker began running as a way to differentiate herself from the crowd. But pressure to conform soon followed. Now, she remembers that time as a period when she was pushed to become someone other than herself. She calls this phenomenon “the girl box.”

Fortunately, her mother found the exit to her own girl box in her late 40s when she, too, discovered the joy of running. Then, one day, she invited her daughter, Barker, to join her. Looking back, Barker credits the time spent running, silently, with her mother, often before sunrise, as her introduction to the divine.

However, she began to slide back into the girl box when she discovered boys and alcohol as a teenager. Soon, succumbing to external pressure from her peers, running became less about spending time with the divine and more about competing with others.

Years later, in her early 30s, Barker felt she’d completely lost her way. In fact, she was suicidal. Her sister advised, “This too shall pass” … and Barker went for a run. Somewhere around the fifth mile of that six-mile run, something happened. The girl box vanished for good.

And now you know why she founded Girls On the Run. She wants to help other girls avoid the agony and confinement of “the girl box.”

The program is now in 174 cities across America and, one day — possibly soon, it may be an international organization.

Molly Barker wants to know what stories you tell yourself to limit your experience of the world. After you’ve told them all, put them down and step away from the box.

Presenter: Molly Barker, Founder of Girls on the Run