Today, girls feel the pressures to be pretty, popular, and talented. They are striving to fit in, keep up, and be all things to all people. Yet, girls are more stressed and anxious than ever before and consistently report feeling “not good enough.”
As girls grow up, they change from strong, secure, and gutsy little girls to uncertain, afraid, and worried teen girls who hold back their voice, their opinion, and their adventurous spirits. They lose their true self and begin curating the “ideal” self—one who is helpful, amenable, and accomplished. Her “perfect” self, whether on her social media feeds or in real-time, strives for perfection at all costs. Essentially, girls become “super girls”.
Yet, as much as they are accomplishing, they may also be struggling with “Super Girl Syndrome” —stressed out, exhausted, and empty. You may be noticing the signs: girls who are taking on more roles and responsibilities, putting in extra time on assignments for the perfect grades, staying up late, and saying, “Yes” to every opportunity and every invitation that comes her way.
Girls have endless possibilities and infinite choices. The world tells her: “Be anything” she hears: “Be everything.” Girls know the “girl power” movement is on the rise and they have some pretty big shoes to fill (think Ariana Grande, Malala Yousafsai, Emma Watson, and Greta Thunberg). They may not know that the push for more is taking its toll on their mental health. As her “to-do list” grows longer, you may wonder how to help support your daughter.
My work with girls has taught me, they want and they need our help. Here are 4 superpower options for you to teach her:
Superpower 1: Help her to be self-compassionate. Since supergirls push themselves beyond their own boundaries, they are going to need to learn how to be kind, with their words and their actions. This could mean, using gentle self-talk such as, “I am so proud of myself today” or “I need a moment to consider how I feel I did” or showing herself some latitude when things don’t go her way. At the same time, girls need to practice self-care and give themselves permission to relax. This could mean time to journal, a bubble bath, a funny sitcom or Netflix, or preparing her favorite meal. Being hard on themselves and harsh with their words and actions doesn’t help them to achieve any more and leaves them feeling bad. Kindness and self-compassion, meeting themselves in a moment, is the anecdote for any possibility of self-punishment.
Superpower 2: Suggest she chooses progress over perfection. Girls aim for “perfect” —a non-existent entity they have come to equate with happiness. They strive for an impossibly high standard and when they don’t meet these unrealistic demands, they can feel deflated, and promise themselves one thing: to try harder and to push for more. When I work with perfectionists, I always affirm their hustle. Simultaneously, I deconstruct perfectionism, explaining there is no such thing and they will never get there. Then, I shift their focus to progress, asking her to take a moment to look back at how far she’s come, how she got here (discipline, hard work, commitment, and time), and ask her not to compare her journey with anyone else’s. When she can see her progress, I ask her what is required for her to keep going (more time, support, motivation, and learning). Letting go of perfection can mean, she can enjoy the ride of progress, as well as making mistakes, or being mediocre or average, albeit temporarily. She can be her worth, not try to prove her worth.
Superpower 3: Encourage her to practice bravery. Many girls play it safe and girls are afraid to be brave. They don’t want to risk a reputation or any expectations. They don’t want to step out of a comfort zone and be uncomfortable or uncertain. Often girls feel they are not ready and as though they aren’t enough. Yet, taking risks and showing bravery is the very skill girls need to practice to grow. When girls are brave—either they take a chance, make a new choice, decide to change, or challenge themselves, being uncomfortable is inevitable. On the other side of discomfort is courage. The more brave girls can be—raising their hands in the classroom, setting a boundary, making new friends, or trying out new activities, the more likely they are to learn that they can do it, even if they are afraid. And, it feels pretty good.
Superpower 4: Remind her to play and have fun. Supergirls are focused and don’t have a lot of free time. This may sound counterintuitive but this is exactly why they need to play. They are so busy and often so stressed, suggesting having fun to them is laughable. All the while, downtime is necessary as is getting her to take a phone break. It is through play, being messy, and feeling wild and carefree, they can unburden and de-stress themselves. Moreover, play is an opportunity to take on some necessary “r’s”, namely: rest, release, restoration, and rejuvenation. Supergirls have the energy and drive to keep going. They will argue they don’t need breaks. Yet, they do. Try to convince her that it is through creative play, they may have new ideas, fresh perspectives, and renewed energy to keep going. Even supergirls need to recharge.
Supergirls are productive and work hard. They are driven, ambitious, responsible and respectable thought leaders. They are our future. As they push to achieve and accomplish, to reach their goals and to make their mark, they are going to need our help to explore the superpower alternatives so they can find a better balance and most importantly, their true identity.
For more resources to support your supergirl, check out: Growing Strong Girls: Practical Tools to Cultivate Connection in the Preteen Years and Rooted, Resilient, and Ready now available on Amazon and Audible. She is also the founder and CEO of Bold New Girls, a website dedicated to “Empowering girls to feel happy, healthy, confident, & inspired through the integration of learning & social/emotional development.”