How to bring out the confidence in girls

Being female and growing up in this society, if there’s one quality that girls should have more than any other thing, it is confidence. I’ve seen how important it is in life. Confident people, most of the time get what they want. They take risks. They are not afraid of failure.

Confidence is definitely something I wish I had earlier. Not saying it’s too late now though. I imagine that my life would have gone very far if I was not too afraid to start things I really wanted to do.

Journalist, author, and speaker Claire Shipman has some answers. In 2014, she and her co-author, Katy Kay, anchor of BBC World News America, published “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know.” The book resonated deeply with women and quickly became a bestseller.

As Shipman and Kay traveled the country to speak about the book, one of the most common questions they would get was from parents, women, and men, who were concerned about their daughters.

They carried out a research and here’s what they had to say.

  1. Help her get outside her comfort zone and take risks.

One of the most important things you can do as a parent or guardian especially of girls is to help them get “comfortable being uncomfortable.” Shipman said she and Kay feel that if they do nothing else in the book but get girls to walk away and understand that it’s cool to take risks, they will have succeeded.

As for how to do that, a parent can talk to their daughter about how they approach a risk and some of the ways they can support themselves “it’s kind of counterintuitive, but just telling yourself ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be afraid of this’ or ‘there’s nothing scary about it’ or ‘fake it until you make it,’ that doesn’t actually help. Risks can be scary,” Shipman said.

  • Have her keep a list of risks.

Keeping a list or journaling past risk and how she worked through them can be a reminder of what she is capable of. The same holds true for failures. Listing their failures and how they tackled them can be incredibly empowering.

Also, have them keep a list of some stock phrases that they can tell themselves when they are in a bit of a frightening situation, such as “I’ve done something like this before. I can do it. I’ve got it.

  • Remind her of ‘failure fixes.’

Our girls need to know that failure is will undoubtedly happen and that it’s not something they can avoid. But knowing how to deal with it can help. We are not always trained on how to act and deal with failure. It is treated as though it doesn’t exist. Then when something unexpected happens, because we were not equipped, we think it is the end of the world.

They offer a list of 10 ‘failure fixes’ such as “change the channel.” Encourage your daughter to do anything that helps her get in a better place, as long as it doesn’t harm her in the long run. Hence ensure it is healthy. This will help distract her from what’s happened and help her stop thinking it over and over again.

Another fix is putting it in perspective. Shipman talks about an idea she and Kay heard from a middle school counselor, which she called a “virtual hot air balloon ride.” Help your daughter envision herself up in the sky with the clouds and looking down at the situation that happened. “First, that lets her kind of literally put it in perspective, like, ‘wow, look, other things are going on,’ and then see it from a different angle and talk about it that way.”

Trying to keep a sense of humor is also key. Of course, this is not easy when your daughter is melting down after what she considers the biggest failure of her life. But try to help her see that it could be much worse.

  • Role model failure and struggle.

One of the more surprising results from the poll Shipman and Kay commissioned is that fathers seem to be better at recognizing a lack of confidence in their daughters than mothers.

“Perfectionism or worry about this or that, or sort of reticence to raise your hand, that’s recognizable to us,” Shipman said. “Even if instinctively we know it’s wrong, it doesn’t seem odd, because we’ve probably experienced it. We may still do it, whereas I think fathers, who do have incredibly high expectations for their daughters, would be (saying) ‘What is going on with my 9-year-old? Why was she this way a year ago, and now she’s thinking she can’t do anything?’ They find it genuinely strange.”

The essence here is how influential role modeling can be for our kids. Let them see us, especially mothers, dealing with failure and struggle and taking risks.

“If we’re going on, “I’m so worried about this. I have to get it right,’ it doesn’t help them,” Shipman said. She’s tried to take this advice even more with her teenage daughter and “lift the veil a little bit.”

  • Remind her she doesn’t have a problem.

With all the talk about girls and confidence, it’s important to make it clear to our girls that it’s not like they have a problem that needs to be fixed, Shipman said. Girls are the way they are for a host of reasons, including nature (brain biology) and nurture (society’s different expectations for girls and boys). They also often have a higher level of emotional intelligence.

“it’s not like we want to churn out a bunch of girls who operate like boys,” Shipman said. “I think it would be wonderful for young women to understand much earlier on, essentially, the world doesn’t operate like school.”

Helping girls understand at young ages what skills will be important later in life is key, including the ability to advocate for themselves and not worry about being people pleasers, Shipman said. Confidence is a very underrated skill

“Girls, even when they speak in class or whatever it is, they want to please people, so I feel like the next hurdle is for girls to understand that they will not always please people. People won’t always like them,” Shipman said. “And when they speak up, some people will like what they say, and others won’t, and how do they develop that armor so that they say ‘but that’s OK because I’m me.’ “

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