How to Ensure that Every Girl Knows She Is Enough As She Is

This podcast episode focuses on the unique challenges girls face and strategies to help them overcome or cope with those challenges with best-selling author, Rachel Simmons. Rachel’s book, Enough As She Is, comes out today, which provides parents and educators with ways to help girls move beyond the impossible standards of success that actually get in their way—and instead, help our girls to live healthy, happy, fulfilling lives.

Special Guest: Rachel Simmons

Rachel Simmons is a bestselling author, educator and consultant helping girls and women be more authentic, assertive and resilient. Her latest release, Enough As She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy and Fulfilling Lives, due out today from HarperCollins. Her previous work includes the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out and The Curse of the Good Girl. As an educator, Rachel teaches girls and women the skills they need to build their resilience, amplify their voices, and own their courage so that they—and their relationships—live with integrity and health.

In the past, we’ve talked about how society’s focus on success, grades, expected perfection and high achievement can create a fear of failure that actually and ironically hampers children’s ability to learn how to fail, rise from failure, gain confidence in themselves and ultimately succeed. But what are the unique pressures that are put on our today’s girls, in particular and how does it affect their ability lead happy, healthy, fulfilling lives? Think about it. The best in sports, the front of the class, top model looks, top of the heap in popularity? Not to mention the mixed messages of “speak up” but not too assertively. Look sexy but not too obviously. Be the smartest but don’t act like you know it. For many girls today, the drive to achieve is both coupled with and driven by immeasurable self criticism and a crippling fear of failure. And while girls have enjoyed notable success in school, college enrollment and leadership, they are struggling—its an internal struggle that leaves them constantly wondering, am I enough? What more do I need to do? And ultimately, and sadly, assuring themselves that they will never be smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough, thin enough, popular enough, or sexy enough. What are we to do to help our girls not only survive adolescence, but thrive, knowing she is indeed, enough as she is?

The podcast provides:

  • Tips: Tools to manage rumination (overthinking) which can be a breeding ground for depression and anxiety. Tips to help support your daughter during adolescence. 
  • Scripts: What to say when your daughter is ruminating. What to say to ensure your child is enough as she is.
  • Steps: How to talk your daughter through resolving a problem that she is currently overthinking
  • How to be a good model for your daughter by failing well, discussing mistakes, showing a flexible mindset.

Important Messages:

  • We are seeing a rise in anxiety- girls are raised to care what people think of them and their choices and this has an affect on their anxiety levels.
  • Rumination- overthinking is something many girls do this—and peeks in young adulthood.
  • Girls are dominant in social media—especially visual social media. This causes pressure with regard to how you look, who you are spending time with and who is liking your photos.
  • We need to teach girls how to get out of their own heads- like breathing and intentionally looking around the room to stop the cycle. Picture a stop sign in your head. Set an alarm.
  • The effect of all the pressures girls feel to be everything leads to role overload and role conflict.
  • So much busyness can create burnout and loneliness.
  • When you are scared to make a mistake, you start to seek out experiences where you can’t fail. Then the experience of learning becomes about the performance for someone else rather than your own excitement for learning.
  • Young kids learn because they want to learn. They are intrinsically motivated. When you play it safe, you don’t get the exhilaration that comes when you are hungry to learn and you finally get it.
  • We have to talk to girls about failing well- that failing is an opportunity to try something else. (See Carol Dweck’s work on mindset).
  • Try cooking—a great time to model resiliency.
  • Failing well-> having a growth mindset and modeling that for your children can show them how to do this.
  • Show the kids how to “pivot” when you fail and talk about what you’ll do differently next time.
  • Help your child become media literate (see Jean Kilbourne, for example).
  • We now need social media literacy. Discuss bikini shots, for example.
  • Don’t demonize social media – you might alienate the child.
  • Let go of the idea that the conversations will be on your schedule and be cognizant of what your child needs at that moment- do they need advice or do they just want to vent? But don’t ask this question if you are not willing to just let them vent!
  • Don’t ask your child to unload their day right after school- would you want to unload your day like that? We need to be respectful and treat your kid like a person!
  • ORID: What is objectively is true? What occurred without judgment? Reflection: How do you feel about this? They vent and tell about how we feel. Interpretive questions: What does this mean for you? How does this affect you? How does it impact your world? Decisional questions: What do you want to do about this? And how can I help you? One thing you want to focus on doing…
  • Make sure your child knows all the gifts you love them for- the intrinsic strengths she has.

Notable Quotables:

  • “Paradoxically, there has never been a better time to be a girl. Girls have opportunity, more equality with boys than any other moment in history but at the same time, while we’ve given girls more experiences and opportunities, we haven’t cut loose some of the old expectations…the need to have bikini body, be liked by everyone and have the best social media feed. So we’ve essentially heaped new obligations for success onto the old without cutting loose the outdated ones.” 
  • “In any case when you expect yourself to be perfect, you will always have an enduring sense that you are not perfect enough.”
  • “I see many students don’t give themselves permission to just have a hobby or just chill out with friends.  They believe to be busy is to be competent. Many confuse having a schedule with having a greater purpose in life. And that, of course, is not the case.”
  • “When you don’t think you can fail, you begin to play it safe with your choices. So you seek out experiences where you have a strong sense that your not going to make a mistake. Then your whole experience of learning becomes much more about the performance for someone else than your own intrinsic engagement. The whole experience of learning becomes eclipsed by the fear of failing.”
  • “You don’t say “yes!” and get the exhilaration when you play it safe. You don’t get the feeling that you’re “stronger, smarter, braver than I thought I was,” when you are doing something where you already kind of know the outcome.”
  • “We are seeing a generation of girls who, when they do fail, become pretty unhinged by it.”
  • “The ability to fail is a skill. It’s a muscle. You’re not going to wake up one day and say, “now I’m resilient!” Resilience is built over time, with practice, with exposure to challenge. If you fall out of practice with failure, you are really undone by it. ”
  • “Failing doesn’t mean that the world has ended, it just means that you have to try something else.”
  • “Parents who have a growth mindset and model it for their children can really make it possible for them to learn how to fail well.”
  • “Media literacy is one of the most successful weapons against body shame…and I think what we now need is social media literacy discussions with our kids.”
  • “You are not telling kids not to be on social media because I don’t think that’s successful and the research certainly does not support that you should bury your head in the sand, but what you are saying is when you are on, don’t swallow everything you see without thinking about it first.”
  • “You’re never going to enter their world on your calendar or schedule. It’s usually going to be when they want you there– not when you want them there. So let go of the idea that when you’re ready to have a talk, they’re ready to have a talk.”
  • “It’s often our own grasping for control and uncertainty at a moment when control is off the table that make us say and do stupid things as parents.”
  • “You can best support your daughter when you learn to regulate yourself.”
  • “Whether your daughter is willing to admit this or not, she is 100% looking at you to figure out how stressful the situation is.  They want the opportunity to be off the wall tantruming and they want you to say; “it’s going to fine.” If you get hijacked with them, not only do they lose it, because the container of their security now feels really scary but you are also probably going to say or do things that you don’t want to do.”
  • “The best way to support your kid is to learn how to check yourself.”
  • “Ask yourself, how would I parent in this moment if you actually knew that everything was going to be fine? Ninety-five percent of the time it’s different than what you want to do.”
  • “How do you tell your daughter she’s enough as she is? You just tell her. You talk to her.”