Low Confidence with Bright Girls
In the article “Why Bright Girls Struggle: When Ability Doesn't Lead to Confidence,” Katherine of A Mighty Girl, acknowledges the differences between the positive affirmations men and women need. In detail, she describes how bright girls tend to doubt themselves because they do not think that they can succeed at something new and challenging.
Girls may not realize that the hardest obstacle to overcome is within themselves. In order to succeed, girls may hold themselves to a higher standard. However, this harsh judgement can get too much into their heads and make them doubt even simple tasks more than men would. For example, psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, the author of “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently,” writes "at the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science... [but] bright girls [are] much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective learners as a result." Halvorson notes that even though girls do better than boys do in school, girls are more likely to lose faith in their ability to succeed time after time. In fact, girls may give up quicker than boys when a task appears more complex or difficult and girls who have straight A’s and a higher intelligence are more likely to give up sooner than others.
We, as individuals, need to understand why bright girls question their abilities and how we can help them feel more confident. Instead of letting girls give up when a task is too complex, we should encourage them to keep going not only because we believe in them but because they are already good at the task, they may be just doubting themselves and tenacity is helpful in these situations. Practice makes better, even when they’re struggling.
Further studies have discovered that girls believe that their abilities are unchangeable (a fixed mindset), while boys believe that their effort and practice will be enough to get them through (a growth mindset). This difference in attitude is based on the kind of feedback that each gender receives. For instance, boys are given feedback that emphasizes their effort whether they need to apply themselves more or are doing a good job. On the other hand, girls are given feedback on how smart and good they are or are not. These beliefs can create self doubt and possibly maintain the self doubt throughout their lives if they are not changed.
If women question their ability to succeed then one should embrace what they can do versus what they can’t. Have confidence in oneself to accomplish and accept challenges one may face. Keep working hard because practice makes better!
-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD
Katherine. “Why Bright Girls Struggle: When Ability Doesn't Lead to Confidence.” A Mighty Girl. 18 Nov. 2018. Web. https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=21158
Grant Halvorson, Heidi. “The Trouble With Bright Girls.” Psychology Today. 11 Jan. 2011. Web. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-success/201101/the-trouble-bright-girls
Grant Halvorson, Heidi. (2012) Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.