For girls, their first period is not just a body crisis, it’s a self confidence crisis. Studies have shown that once girls hit puberty, they start to have issuesanswering questions with confidence and passion. The phrases “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure” start to become prevalent as a response to simple questionslike, “what do you care about?” and “what makes you angry?”
Researchers call this scary phenomenon “Loss of Voice.” It’s as if girls become disconnected from who they are. Divorced from their strongest thoughts andfeelings, they exhibit low self-confidence and have trouble expressing opinions.
What’s causing that to happen? Psychologist Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of “Easing Their Stress: Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure,”observed a spike instress levels and psychological crises among young girls. She writes that young girls are “so busy living up to others’ expectations that they either don’t develop or eventually relinquish their own goals. Theyare so focused on achieving external emblems of success that they don’t get the chance to figure out what really excites them and gives them pleasure. Theybarely know who they are or who they want to become.”
Once they hit puberty, young girls are bombarded by messages, not just from the media, but also from their peers and friends about who they should be. Itcan be tough to sort out all those mixed signals, and stressful because it’s impossible to make everybody happy.
Rachel Simmons, author of “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls” and “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courageand Confidence,” has spoken with young girls around the world and discovered that one issue causing the disconnect is the expectations for women in society— or as she’s termed it, “The Curse of the Good Girl.” Her research has shown that what makes a “Good Girl” in most countries is someone who doesn’t havestrong opinions, never rocks the boat and is unerringly selfless. In other words, being a “Good Girl” is impossible to achieve and, in many cases, is theopposite of what makes a good leader or what makes a girl happy.
What makes girls happy (and healthy and powerful) is being themselves. To inspire girls to be true to themselves, Simmons founded the Girls LeadershipInstitute. But what can you personally do for your daughter? Simmons told Always the best thing moms can do to help their daughters during this time is tobe an emotional refuge by validating their volatile emotions.
“Your mother validates your emotions — it’s okay to feel insecure, or fat, or betrayed, or anxious. Girls are questioning their feelings,” Simmons said.“Adolescence is such a storm for girls. In the best case scenario, your mom is a good refuge for you.”
As her mom, you’re the constant that keeps her confident. But how can you be there for her when she’s distancing herself? Get tips on staying close when she pulls away here.
- “Easing Their Stress: Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure” by PsychologistRoni Cohen-Sandler
- “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls” by Rachel Simmons