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Posts in Success
Girls and the Struggle with Confidence

In the article “Why Girls Beat Boys at Schools and Lose to them at the Office,” author Lisa Damour describes that even though girls do better academically, they are still not getting the recognition they deserve for working so hard. Boys and girls may receive the same grades, but it is seen that girls put more effort into their work than boys because they are afraid of making a mistake. 

For example, Damour stated that between an eighth-grade girl and a ninth-grade boy in her practice who were siblings, the girl said that she was overwhelmed by school and made sure that her grades were unmistakeable by spending an hour on each assignment (Damour). She noted that she felt “safe” only if she did this routinely. On the contrary, her brother would do the same assignments and fly through them and still get the same grade as her. 


As a result, journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, who wrote The Confidence Gap, “found that a shortage of competence is less likely to be an obstacle than a shortage of confidence.” In detail, it is found that girls are more self-disciplined regarding their school work than boys are. Girls may study harder and get better grades, but men still have “95 percent of the top positions in the largest public companies” (Damour).

As men experience that they can get away with exerting minimal effort in school, they develop a type of confidence that gets them to the top. On the other hand, girls may focus so much on studying for the “perfect” academic grades that they may discredit their own abilities and/or miss opportunities for building their confidence.

As girls grow up, remind them that they are intelligent and can work hard but at the same time balance out their lives with fun and rewards for doing so well and applying so much effort. We want them to build more confidence with their work, without developing more anxiety. Women may put so much pressure on themselves to do well and stress that everything needs to be perfect. The main question Damour asks is “how do we get hyper-conscientious girls (and boys, as there certainly are some with the same style) to build both confidence and competence at school?”

For more information on girls, confidence, and anxiety, please contact us. To learn how we can help you or your child who may be struggling with their confidence at school or at the office, contact us or visit our website. For more information on therapy, visit Hilber Psychological Services.

- Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD


Damour, Lisa. (2019, Feb 7). Why Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office. The New York Times. Opinion. Web. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/opinion/sunday/girls-school-confidence.html.

Kay, Katty & Shipman, Claire. (2014, May). The Confidence Gap. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/05/the-confidence-gap/359815/.

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!

For more information on how to help your teen increase their confidence, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.

-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.