Big Girl Panties…

by elizabethbrantley

I know a word in the title might make a few of you cringe. But I can’t help but write about it, as this is the phrase that has come up in my life a multiple times this past week (what are the odds? It must be Life talking!) . Truth be told, I love this expression because it actually means something to me. I have strong associations of laughter and fun when I think of big girl panties. These associations are all thanks to Camp Seafarer and the staff training they always did at the beginning of camp. 

You see in our contract there was a sneaky clause that was titled “Other”. The way they use to teach us about our “other” responsibilities was to bring out the big – and I mean big – underwear. The idea was that when one of these tasks comes our way – like cleaning out a trashcan that has maggots in it, or staying up all night with a sick camper, or taking pictures of a camper’s nose for parents at 1:00am (don’t ask) – we were to not hesitate but simply put on our big girl panties. We were to grow up, to suck it up, and to embrace the unknown of what might be asked of us. 

The beauty of camp is that this pair of underwear was actually real. At times before we were about to be asked to do something, a Director or Head Counselor would throw the underwear our way. You knew that something was coming. Yet you embraced it with laughter – heck, maybe even a costume change! We have all been known to put the biggies on over our cover-ups and life jackets, over our summer garb, all the while doing the task that we were asked to do. 

Why is this such a good metaphor? – because it is such a tangible example of growing up. When we had the real transition from diapers to “big girl panties” we were changing our lifestyle significantly. We were praised for growing up. We felt honored and proud to have “accomplished” this milestone. In our adult lives we don’t have such tangible milestones. We don’t get praised for the steps we take where we are growing, but instead perhaps live in fear of criticism and failure, where nothing is good enough to us. However, we do deserve praise for putting on these big girl panties, in whatever form they might take as adults. We do deserve to flaunt it! We do deserve to feel proud and to have fun with it. 

This is how the phrase came up in my life for the third time this week – one of my best friends, one of my idols, one of the inspiring figures in my life has done this – and a colleague of hers wrote about it (

Taking a step into the unknown last summer, this friend along with 5 other young women wrote, produced, acted and directed a movie. And not just any movie, but the best movie I might have ever seen. It was moving to the point, where even now I am tearing up with its beauty and truth. 

So this post is a thank you. A thank you to her and the others that decided to put on their big girl panties and face the bold, uncertain and meaningful endeavor that has since defined their life. It is a thank you for being the an archetype to me, as I meditate on the qualities I hope to acquire. It is a thank you for not listening to any outside voice, but giving the stage to the still and quiet one inside that says, “Yes, even though it might be scary, it is what you are meant to do. Go forward and do it.” 

This is to her, for taking the chance. For willing to look foolish by exposing her heart, but for putting on her big girl panties and advancing into the life she has dreamed of.