Think back to when your girl was a toddler; do you remember that boundless enthusiasm and I-can-do-anything attitude? One day she wanted to be a writer and the next day she’d switched to wanting to be a dentist/astronaut (because dental hygiene is important even in space. Naturally!). But as girls get older, studies show that their fearless sense of adventure starts to give way to something a bit less fun: the pressure to be perfect.
Just how serious is the problem though? By age 13, nearly half of girls say they “aren’t allowed to fail.” Scary, right?
“When girls think people are counting on them to do well—even at things that are seemingly trivial—it creates not only a fear of failure but also a fear of trying anything new or challenging that could expose a weakness,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “Everyone has to work to develop the skills involved in new activities, but girls are viewing their beginner abilities (or lack thereof) as proof that they’re not qualified. And this in turn, is keeping them from trying new things altogether.”
It might not seem like a big deal if she’s too nervous to try out for the school talent show, but that tendency can make her less likely to raise her hand in class unless she’s positive she knows the “perfect” answer. And even if she does offer an answer in class, she might be more likely to start her statement with, “This probably isn’t right, but…”
This self-doubt and its ramifications can set up a behavior pattern that will follow her into adulthood. For example, research has shown that women are less likely to put themselves out there for promotion unless they’re one hundred percent sure they’re going to get it.
The plain truth is that being “good” at everything isn’t what matters. It’s trying her best and being willing to work toward improving that will give her the fullest, most fun, and ultimately most successful life.
So whether she dreams of landing a coveted solo at the choir concert this spring or is thinking of nominating herself for debate team captain, what matters isn’t whether she makes it or not—it’s that she’s trying in the first place. Even something small, like trying a new food or playing a new game with friends can help set your girl up for future success.
How can you encourage her to test the waters and try new things?
While the pressure to succeed will always be there, how you frame success—as the willingness to try—will ultimately be what helps your girl thrive!
Show her she can do anything she sets her mind to with these easy tips.