Almost all the girls I coach want one thing- confidence. They want to feel good about themselves and trust in their abilities. They correctly believe that confidence will support them in self-advocating, building strong relationships, and overcoming challenges.
Confidence is critical to a teen girl or young woman’s well-being. It helps them navigate life – seizing opportunities, bouncing back from setbacks, and resisting peer or societal pressure.
During the teen and early young adult years, confidence is fragile. There are many reasons girls feel a lack of confidence. In my experience coaching girls for over a decade, I have identified three prevalent factors that significantly diminish their confidence.
- Unrealistic beauty standards. There is a strong and pervasive external pressure to look a certain way, and when a girl feels she does not fit this ideal, she becomes self-critical and fearful. Although her appearance has nothing to do with her abilities, she begins to doubt herself and fears judgment from others.
- Exceedingly high academic standards. Academic standards are higher than ever. For most teens, getting into college is similar to a full-time job; she must constantly focus on maintaining a high GPA, her extracurricular activities, and test scores. This pressure to achieve and succeed breeds thoughts of What if I can’t do it? What if I don’t get accepted? What if I fail? Which leads to stress, doubt, and insecurity. Adding to that, many girls base their self-worth on their GPA. When they fall below a perceived or self-imposed standard, they begin to feel worthless. They fear they will never be successful. Some girls will give up altogether.
- Increased competition and comparison. Along with rigorous academic standards comes a tendency to compete and compare. Many of the girls I coach want to be at the top of their class (their parents encourage this too). While there is such a thing as healthy competition it can also lead to a sense of failure. I’ve seen high-achieving girls score a few points lower than a classmate and start beating themselves up, even though their final score was an A!!
Competition and comparison spread into many aspects of girls’ lives: their appearance, popularity, self-worth, romantic partners, number of likes and followers, and Snapchat “streaks.” They are constantly sizing themselves up to others and many are trying hard to be the prettiest and most popular, both on and offline. When a girl feels she falls short in any of these areas, self-criticism has a tendency to kick in and her confidence takes a hit.
Understanding what zaps your daughter’s confidence is an important step toward strengthening it. Use it to inform the conversations you have with your daughter and promote her confidence. Subscribe to receive next week’s blog on parenting practices that build confidence.