“It’s risk—not perfection, not success, not racking up achievements—that actually helps to build confidence in girls. And it’s confidence—not an ideal résumé or killer test scores or glowing recommendations—that leads to success later in life.”
—Building Confidence In Girls Is All About Risk, Not Perfection
Why is building confidence in girls so important? Research shows us that confident girls are more likely to take risks and to advocate for themselves and their beliefs. They are also more likely to own their own learning journey and pursue their passions. Ultimately, confident girls are best prepared to meaningfully contribute to the betterment of the world around them.
Unfortunately, girls' confidence levels drop by 30 percent between the ages of 8 and 14. The most commonly reported reasons for this are related to physical changes and body image concerns girls experience during this time. However, girls' self-esteem and confidence are related to not only their physical appearance, but also their internal perception of themselves and their abilities.
While confidence can't be taught, it can be cultivated. A cornerstone of social-emotional wellbeing, confidence is rooted in feelings of security and belonging. And as a key predictor in future success—more so than even IQ—it is vital we help our girls feel nurtured and supported.
Ready to help your daughter gain a strong sense of self? Below are five steps for success.
How You Can Encourage Confidence in Your Daughter
1) Combat Perfectionism
- Praise effort and growth rather than intelligence.
- Point out small success (don't offer false praise). Making a distinction between talent and effort is critical.
- Cultivate a belief that her value as a person or as a student does not lie in her innate abilities or her grades.
2) Respond to Setbacks
- Consider failure as a stepping stone to success. Those who fail and are encouraged to keep trying are better equipped to respond to setbacks.
- Model perseverance for your daughter.
- There will be bumps in the road—normalize them but don’t trivialize them.
3) Instill a Growth Mindset
- It is essential that girls develop a Growth Mindset. From the research by psychologist Carol Dweck, those with a Growth Mindset believe their talents can be expanded and accomplished with effort and practice, while those with a Fixed Mindset believe their abilities are innate, static, and cannot be changed.
- Celebrate effort over outcome.
- Embrace the power of yet. “You have not mastered _______ yet.” Skills can be learned, which leads to trying new things.
4) Help Her Cultivate Relationships
- Girls place more emphasis and importance on relationships than boys do. Focus on positive behaviors and friendships.
- Surround her with positive role models.
- Encourage success without tearing others down.
5) Encourage Her to Use Her Voice and Give Her Choices
- Self-confidence is often borne of making your own choices and experiencing the results. Allow her the independence to make her own decisions.
- Teach her that her voice matters and encourage her to use it; ask for her opinions and thoughts and celebrate her sharing or advocating for herself.
- Model and encourage civil discourse.
Did You Know?
The majority of girls' school grads report higher self-confidence over their coed peers.
—Dr. Linda Sax, UCLA, Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College