Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Knocking gender’s efforts a big blow to confidence

7/14/2014

The easy path for many people is to go along with language used by others — even if it is insulting and condescending. That kind of mob mentality has made expressions like “You throw like a girl!” an insult quietly eroding girls’ confidence. Such sentiments take on increased power as young girls enter adolescence — a time of perpetual uncertainty as girls reset their bearings to deal with emotional highs and lows of menstrual cycles and those cycles impact on everything they do.

That transition during puberty, accompanied by frequent mood swings, often leads to a loss of confidence for girls and a time when they become more self-conscious and uncertain. Boys, on the other hand, enter puberty in a slower and less public manner with the changes in becoming a man being treated more positively than those changes girls undertaken in becoming a woman.

The easy path for many people is to go along with language used by others — even if it is insulting and condescending. That kind of mob mentality has made expressions like “You throw like a girl!” an insult quietly eroding girls’ confidence. Such sentiments take on increased power as young girls enter adolescence — a time of perpetual uncertainty as girls reset their bearings to deal with emotional highs and lows of menstrual cycles and those cycles impact on everything they do.

That transition during puberty, accompanied by frequent mood swings, often leads to a loss of confidence for girls and a time when they become more self-conscious and uncertain. Boys, on the other hand, enter puberty in a slower and less public manner with the changes in becoming a man being treated more positively than those changes girls undertaken in becoming a woman.

A manufacturer of feminine hygiene products, Proctor & Gamble, initiated a new advertising campaign — http://bit.ly/1mOeKhp — suggesting people — especially girls — “rewrite the rules” on the use of the “like a girl” expression. Rather than having it serve as a way to disempower girls, it instead is a point of pride. P&G’s Always promotional messages encourage girls to do amazing things, but changing hearts and minds will take more than those words.

Media, especially social media, have a tremendous influence on adolescent girls who are in the midst of changing from their parent to peers and media as their trusted sources of information. Girls have to celebrate their individuality rather than trying to live up to social norms and trying to please everyone they encounter. Boys aren’t conditioned to be the “pleasers” that girls attempt to become. Encouraging girls to keep their heads down and be compliant can do long-term damage according to one researcher, Peggy McIntosh, Wellesley Center for Women, said in “The Confidence Code” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Girls learn to not take risks and instead to take the safe route and avoid possible failure.

The Raising Children Network recommends parents focus on cultivating their tweens resilience to help them better weather puberty. Resilience via strong coping skills makes it easier for adolescents to more quickly deal with setbacks and to bounce back quicker resulting in increased self-confidence. Focusing on effort rather than outcomes also can help adolescents realize one failure — whether it is not making the computer, music or academic or sports team — need not stop them from getting up and trying again nor should it shake their long-term self-confidence.

Learning it is OK to make mistakes as long as adolescents learn from those mistakes and move on may be one of the best ways for girls to learn that “hitting like a girl” — even if it isn’t always a solid hit — still can be a source of pride.

Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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