• How Puberty Kills Girls’ Confidence by C. Shipman

How Puberty Kills Girls’ Confidence by C. Shipman

I related to much of this article.

My mother, who raised me to be a gender complementarian, with complementarianism being, among other things, nothing but codependency for girls and women, encouraged me to be a “good girl,” to be a rule follower, and to avoid taking risks. And it did negatively affect my life. It held me back.

How Puberty Kills Girls’ Confidence by C. Shipman


In their tween and teenage years, girls become dramatically less self-assured—a feeling that often lasts through adulthood.

…Until the age of 12, there was virtually no difference in confidence between boys and girls.

But, because of the drop-off girls experienced during puberty, by the age of 14 the average girl was far less confident than the average boy.

The female tween and early-teen confidence plunge is especially striking because multiple measures suggest that girls in middle and high school are, generally speaking, outperforming boys academically, and many people mistake their success for confidence.

But the girls we talked with and polled detailed, instead, a worrisome shift. From girls 12 and under, we heard things such as “I make friends really easily—I can go up to anyone and start a conversation” and “I love writing poetry and I don’t care if anyone else thinks it’s good or bad.”

A year or more into their teens, it was “I feel like everybody is so smart and pretty and I’m just this ugly girl without friends,” and “I feel that if I acted like my true self that no one would like me.”

Confidence is an essential ingredient for turning thoughts into action, wishes into reality.

Moreover, when deployed, confidence can perpetuate and multiply itself. As boys and girls (and men and women) take risks and see the payoffs, they gain the courage to take more risks in the future.

Conversely, confidence’s absence can inhibit the very sorts of behaviors—risk-taking, failure, and perseverance—that build it back up.

So the cratering of confidence in girls is especially troubling because of long-term implications. It can mean that risks are avoided again and again, and confidence isn’t being stockpiled for the future. And indeed the confidence gender gap that opens at puberty often remains throughout adulthood.

What makes confidence-building so much more elusive for so many tween and teen girls? A few things stand out. …

… at an early age, parents and teachers frequently encourage and reward girls’ people-pleasing, perfectionistic behavior, without understanding the consequences.

Often, this is because it just makes parents’ and teachers’ lives easier: In a busy household or noisy classroom, who doesn’t want kids who color within the lines, follow directions, and don’t cause problems?

But perfectionism, of course, inhibits risk-taking, a willingness to fail, and valuable psychological growth.

“If life were one long grade school,” Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychologist who wrote The Growth Mindset, explained to us in an interview for our first book, women “would be the undisputed rulers of the world. But life isn’t one long grade school.”

In fact, later in life, the goalposts shift considerably. “It rewards people who take risks and rebound,” added Dweck. And the boys in our survey seemed to have a greater appetite for risk-taking…

… Adding to this, many girls are also wise enough by the age of 12 to see that the world still treats men and women differently—that dings their confidence, too.

…It’s essential to close the gap, and to do so early, because the long-term effects of these dynamics hurt not only girls, but the women they become, who often, within a few years of entering the workforce, experience another confidence drop, and a drop in aspirations.

Their rule-following, good-girl methods have been celebrated, rewarded by a structured educational and societal system [and are also encouraged by Christian gender complementarians].

It’s a shock to arrive in the adult world and discover a dramatically new playing field: Failure is okay. Risk is worth it.

No wonder they struggle:
Their whole lives, to date, they’ve internalized just the opposite, a societal bait and switch that should be recognized.

Girls are adept at learning—they just need the right study guide.


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