Confidence levels in girls are very much in the limelight these days, with the voices for equality among men and women getting stronger.
What makes this an interesting study is that there are too many pieces to put together.
When we call for confidence in women, we are often met with half-raised hands. Even if we want to be more confident in ourselves, we don’t seem to know how to do it.
A confident man can wing it and still look confident, but a confident woman is always telling herself that she needs to do more, to be better.
Yet, a general finding is that baby girls tend to learn much faster and at a much earlier age as compared to boys. Also, girls start maturing earlier at 10, and boys start later, usually between 15-20, from a study done by Newcastle University scientists. But, when it comes to growing up, their confidence falter much more than boys’.
Is this a result of individual and gender genetic makeup or a consequence of culture and upbringing?
Below is an excerpt of an interesting finding from Forbes article,
At the age of five, the scores between boys and girls are virtually identical for both “smart” and “nice,” hovering around a score of 0.7. In other words, 70% of boys associate males with being smart and with being nice, and 70% of girls associate females with being smart and with being nice.
At the ages of six and seven, the results change: boys continue to be more likely to associate “smart” with males (around 0.65), while girls tend to associate males and females equally with “smart.” Sadly, the fact that the boys’ score is higher than the girls’ has been widely misinterpreted to mean that girls think that boys are smarter, but this is simply not true: the results show that, as early as six years of age, girls have already figured out that being smart has nothing to do with gender, while boys persist in their delusion of intellectual superiority.
However, when it comes to associating “nice” with gender, we see a very different picture: girls associate females with “nice” consistently across all ages (about 0.7), whereas boys start out at age five thinking that males are more likely to be nice (about 0.65), but at six and seven years of age they are actually slightly more likely to associate “nice” with females (about 0.45). Hence boys and girls agree, from as early as six years of age, that girls tend to be nicer than boys.
In other words, the same girls who believe that being smart has nothing to do with gender, also believe that (1) girls tend to be nicer than boys, (2) activities that require you to try hard are more interesting than those that only require “smarts,” and (3) girls are likely to outperform boys in school.
We can be nice, smart and be as confident as men, but somewhere along the line, we lost the confidence to be confident.
Is it because we are less strong physically than men so we think we are less capable, or we have less ego to feel proud of ourselves, or do we get lesser support and encouragement from a younger age?
Interestingly, this is supported by a survey concluding that “where girls get less support and encouragement than boys, they tend to have less confidence in their ability.”
Impact of Low Self-Confidence
The impact of low self-confidence is evident in the lives of an individual.
A girl raised with empowerment and encouragement to be confident from young might face less emotional hurdles as she grows, which eventually leads her to be a better individual in her adulthood. She is not afraid to be herself, go after what she wants and speak her mind. She demands respect and shows the same to others.
For those of us who lack confidence in ourselves, it takes a much longer time to build the confidence. Not only is it doubly hard to work against counteracting the inner critics within us, it is also a much arduous journey when one faces setbacks during her journey. However, not all is lost. it is not impossible to regain the confidence in ourselves.
However, it is more than beneficial to start building confidence in ourselves and our next generation earlier, rather than to start working on them over the years.
If you are a parent who wants to see your daughter grow up as confidently as your son, there are a few things that we can try to improve moving forward.
Allow her Freedom
Freedom to decide, freedom to speak up and freedom to be who she wants to be.
Allow her the accountability to make her own judgement and decide for herself, even from a young age. Start empowering her with the simplest decisions, then work on to the bigger ones such as what course she wants to take up in university.
Allow her the freedom to have equal rights to speak up as her siblings and the adults in the family as well as in the public. If she is constantly overwritten, suppressed or unheard during conversations in the family, start engaging her in conversations, encourage her to speak up and let her be heard. Encourage her to articulate with confidence while sitting or standing straight.
Allow her the freedom to pursue what she wants, be it learning piano or Muay Thai, even the more masculine activities.
Allow her the freedom to be who she wants to be.
Most Asian parents would strongly recommend their children to go after what they do well in school. However, doing what one is good at is different from doing what she enjoys. Allow her the freedom to pick what she wants to be doing for the rest of her life.
Having said that, it is also vital to expose them to a variety of experiences and knowledge from a young age. Allow her the freedom to participate in various courses and events, in and out of school.
Freedom also means the ability to make friends and manage her own time. At the same time, it also means being less reliant on others, be more independent and be more responsible for herself.
Practice Independence from Young
Giving her freedom also comes with independence. When your daughter is introduced to freedom, expect her to not only be responsible for herself but also be a more independent person.
There is little use in giving freedom but having to be there to solve problems for her each time she falls. With that said, also allow her to fall and fail even when she is too young to understand. It is better that she fails now than to fail in life.
Allow her to pick herself up after each fall instead of running to her before she falls. That way, she learns and grows faster. Step back unless when required.
Give her Encouragements and Positive Reinforcements
Unnecessary praises and compliments do more harm to any individuals than help them.
When she does well, give her recognition for her hard work and efforts. Comments such as “You’re so clever” or “You’re so lucky”, etc points towards factors that cannot be changed or affected by oneself. As such, it will give her the connotation that she does not really need to put in many efforts, in that everything is pretty much destined.
If she doesn’t do well, give her words of encouragements and possibly tips on how to improve in future. There is little meaning in demoralising any child further with discouraging remarks.
True real life example – A student who was constantly doing well in her studies was often told that she was smart, even though she worked hard for her studies. She was never told that her good grades were results of her hard work and efforts, which brought about the belief that she is smart, and will not fail in life until she goes out to the working society and struggles.
In school, everything was planned out for and she only needs to follow what was being taught and ensure that she understands her lessons and prepares well for exams. But what about in life after school where there is no script or manual to follow? The struggles and setback were a first time experience for her being a young adult. Imagine failing for the first time when you have always been the one winning. One failure made her think that she has lost the game, and because she has never failed before and expected herself not to, she thinks she will never be good enough now and perhaps is destined to fail.
Encourage Her To Take Part in Team Sports
Encouraging your daughter to take part in team sports may be one of the more empowering act. Team sports not only build team spirits, improve comradeship but also build confidence in oneself.
In a team sport, everyone has a role to play. With each role they are given, they are also accountable for their own actions and inactions, which shows them what responsibility for oneself and others mean.
Team sports also teaches about resilience and perseverance. In team sports, you don’t do it only for yourself (it is easier to give up when doing something alone), you also do it for your team members. She will learn about team efforts and not give up easily.
Encourage Her to Be Active, Outside of Studies.
Doing well in studies is great, but it should not be the main goal of growing up. If your daughter is good in her academics, all the more she should be encouraged to be more active outside of the classroom. If she dislikes studying, her talents and skills may be elsewhere, in which case, being active outside of the classroom will help build her confidence as well.
Taking up other activities and roles outside of schoolwork not only expands her experience and learning curves, she also gets exposure in terms of dealing with her peers and builds on her communication skills. At the same time, she also gets to build her confidence when dealing with a different circle of friends.
Aside, children who start volunteering from a younger age tend to be more sensible and understanding. Also, volunteering adds on to expanding their experiences and views in life.
As parents, there could be many things you wish you could guide and pass down to her, sometimes even your views and preferences. However, as an individual, she is entitled to her own thoughts and views, even if they are different from yours. Embrace that.
Educate her to be comfortable in her own skin, without being a people pleaser or having to be nice all the time.
If she is reserved and introvert, don’t force her to be bubbly. If she is outgoing and extroverted, try not to refrain her from being herself.
As individuals, we don’t need approvals to be who we are. We already are.
More importantly, be her role model.
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The difference between talent and hard work
A talented person may have fewer hurdles to overcome, but without commitments, their talent is wasted. A talented person may not be as successful as an untalented one who puts in the time and effort to master her knowledge and skills daily. Similarly, one who constantly fails in school does not mean that she will fail in life.
More important than talent is hard work. Everything you want to achieve is within your limits, and everything you think you cannot achieve is the limit you have set for yourself.
It all boils down to the amount of time and work you are willing to put in to achieve what you want to go after.
The line between smart and nice.
Smart and nice can go hand in hand, but at times, being nice puts us in difficult positions.
A nice person may be well-liked but not always respected. We don’t need to be extra nice to be liked and respected, nor do we have to be nice to prove our worth.
Help, only when you sincerely want to help, not because it is expected or demanded of you.
As smart women, it is equally important for us to remain modest and respectful of ourselves and others. Draw your own respect line so others will give you the respect you already deserve.
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Brilliance is not solely a male quality. Brilliance is universal, so is confidence. Anyone can own it and claim it.
If you don’t have them now, go find your brilliance and confidence.
With encouragement and support, women of the future have less to battle with internally and they will be able to showcase their brilliance and confidence naturally.
As eGirl aptly puts it in their article, “Women have never been more powerful than they are currently. They are making progress in every industry across the country. They comprise half of the work force and they are receiving more college degrees than men. But, lack of confidence is holding them back immensely!”
Unless we take actions.
If we want to claim our confidence back today, it is the time we do something for ourselves, and our next generation now.