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Stand Up & Say Something

Have you tried stand up paddle boarding? I’ve done it on small lakes, a large ocean and even through some Colorado river rapids…that got my heart beating fast! The acronym for stand up paddle boarding is SUP, which is about as straightforward of a name as you can get! You literally stand up on the board and navigate on the water by using a long handled paddle. You need to be aware of what’s around you because trust me, you don’t want to fall into Lake Dillion where the water is 46 degrees by the warmest part of summer. Brrr! However, with very little instruction, I’m confident everyone can stand up and feel the rush of self-empowerment as you glide over the water.

Why don’t we stand up more often in other parts of our life? For example, when we are in an unhealthy friendship or see a friend in a rocky romantic relationship, why don’t we stand up and say something? As a SHINE Girl community, you have created a strong tribe by sticking together and protecting each other. So, why are there still unhealthy situations in teen dating and relationships? I think it is because we haven’t had enough instruction to “SUP” and once we do, all of us can all stand up for ourselves and each other.

In the world of relationships, SUP stands for:

Safety. Unity. Personal Responsibility.

Safety starts with recognizing what is unhealthy or abusive behavior. To make it easier to understand and recognize, I describe it as “Repeated mistreatment, where one person uses manipulations to gain and maintain power and control over another person.” These are the dangerous rapids we have to recognize so we can successfully navigate and avoid them. Rapids can look like one person treating the other with: 

  • humiliation in front of others and often playing it off as if was a joke and you are too sensitive
  • threats of leaving you or physical harm to you or something you care about
  • coercion or pressuring or shaming you into doing something you don’t want to do, often pushing for more physical intimacy than you feel comfortable
  • mind games
  • blaming others for their own misbehavior
  • stalking, in person or with technology
  • emotional, verbal, physical, sexual and/or financial abuse

Unity provides friendships where you are safe to tell others what is really happening in your life and relationships. In healthy relationships, you confidently express your worries and concerns, as well as dreams and goals without fear of ridicule, rejection, gossip and back-stabbing. Consider “unity” the lifeguard on the water who wants you to have fun and also to be safe. When a friend, parent or teammate comes to you with an observation, it’s easy to feel hurt, mad, defensive or accuse them of being jealous or stupid.  But…think how brave that person was to approach you with care, concern and kindness. Listen to their observation because from their life-guard chair, they have a different perspective…one that could protect you and even save your life.

Personal Responsibility begins when we build our Authentic Health which means we know our own self-worth. We all have those nagging, negative thoughts swimming around in our heads saying we aren’t enough. Authentic Health also means we stand up to unhealthy behaviors in others with Healthy Boundary Lines. Personal responsibility is our life preserver for when the water of life get choppy.

“SUP” is a teachable skill we all can master. Healthy relationships are an important part of life and bring us health, happiness and make our life adventure fun, meaningful and rewarding. Unhealthy relationships provide the opposite in life experiences. By learning to stand up and speak out, we create safety, unity and personal responsibility. Paddle on…your adventure awaits!

This blog was written when SHINE Girl asked me to create awareness to standing up and speaking out. For more information on their organization that empowers teen girls to empower each other, please see

Quick facts by Stand Up Colorado, a movement to end relationship violence.

  • 1 in 7 people in Colorado experience relationship violence
  • 60% of relationship violence is never reported to law enforcement
  • 93% of people felt they should do something if they see domestic violence
  • 71% didn’t know how to help
  • 31% believe it rarely happens in their neighborhood

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