There is a lot of talk lately about raising brave girls. Strong girls. A generation of fearless young women ready for any challenge with uplifted chins and multitasking hands. But there is a different type of courage that we should be cultivating in our daughters and nieces. So middle school girls…this one’s for you:

It takes a certain kind of courage to catch your breath. When everyone around you is racing from class to practice, from piano to test prep, it’s too easy to fall in line and just run with the pack. We know. But wise women who have raced in that pack want to whisper some secret advice to you:

Hit pause. Press mute. Be brave enough to breathe.

It’s hard to say no to things — we get it. And it’s especially hard to say no to things that are designed to be good for you: One more travel team, one extra performance, one random hat-toss into the ring for student council. After all, you’re being bombarded with messages telling you to do more. Accomplish more. Strive for more. But girls…more doesn’t always allow for mindfulness.

And striving isn’t always thriving.

It takes true self-awareness to know when to pursue something relentlessly and when to simply put it down. Lucky for you middle school is the ideal time to develop that skill and, in fact, you’re doing it already! When you jumped off that endless group text because you had to get some sleep — that was a smart move. The drama will still be there in the morning. When you put the final touches on your art project and declared it “done” — that was an example of knowing when to stop. And when you knew that a full head of glow-in-the-dark hair was maybe a step too far — well, that was a good call too.

For real.

It gets harder when the grown-ups in your life are the ones pushing you to do more. When teachers, coaches and parents are encouraging you to stretch and accomplish more, it’s worth listening with an open mind. After all, they know you and they’ve walked this path already. Maybe you would be less bored if you took the advanced math class. Perhaps club soccer will raise your game. Possible the band does need someone to play a third tambourine (okay, no. Just…no.)

The point is to listen well and then to look within. Ask yourself — which activities are most important to me? What clubs do I look forward to all day? What would my week be incomplete without? Maybe that’s a small list or maybe it’s a whole page. But the advantage to prioritizing your crazy schedule is two-fold: it helps you decide what you seriously cannot give up, and it allows you to disengage from the extras crowding your life.

It affords you a chance to be. To breathe.

Because girls, at the end of the day you need a bit of peace. A moment to rest and reflect. Some space to quietly grow. And while we know it takes courage to face down those middle school halls every day, your bravest moments may just come from insisting on a chance to catch your breath. Demand it. Breathe deeply. You deserve it.

Illana Raia is a lawyer, lecturer and founder of — new resources for world-changing girls

Originally published at


  • Illana Raia

    Founder & CEO


    Recently named one of the first 250 entrepreneurs on the Forbes Next 1000 List, Illana Raia is the founder and CEO of Être - a mentorship platform for girls. Believing that mentors matter as early as middle school, Illana brings girls directly into companies they select to meet female leaders face to face. The goal, as Être's French name suggests, is to help today's girls figure out who they want to be.    Named a Mogul Influencer in 2017, Illana appeared in the HuffPost "Talk To Me" video series, participated in the 2018 Balance Project Interviews and the 2019 #WomenWhoRock campaign, and has been featured on Cheddar TV and podcasts like The Other 50%, Her Money, Finding Brave and Women To Watch. Illana has authored 50+ articles for Thrive Global, HuffPost and Ms. Magazine, and her award-winning book Être: Girls, Who Do You Want To Be was released on Day of the Girl 2019. Her next book, The Epic Mentor Guide, is scheduled to arrive on International Women's Day 2022.   Prior to launching Être in 2016, Illana was a corporate attorney at Skadden, Arps in NYC and an occasional guest lecturer at Columbia University. She graduated from Smith College and the University of Chicago Law School, and remains unapologetically nerdy.