Enough As She Is
Tomorrow, the XXI Commonwealth Games will commence on the Gold Coast in Queensland. This two-week sporting event will provide a magnificent display of individual ability, dedication, resilience and grit.
Hours, days, months and years of training, rehabilitation and planning goes into preparing for a competition such as the Commonwealth Games. However, an aspect of elite training often overlooked, but equally important is the opportunity to rest from the physical and mental demands of sport, allowing athletes time to refresh the body and the mind to achieve optimum health and wellbeing.
This same process of rejuvenation is also important for our students. The term break provides the perfect opportunity for students and their parents to reflect on their learnings from Term 1 and reconnect together, as a family.
I encourage parents to utilise these holidays to check in with their daughters’ wellbeing and start up conversations that can sometimes be difficult to broach during the demands of academic and co-curricular schedules within the term.
Current data from the USA shows depressive symptoms in young girls is twice the rate of boys and “outwardly ‘exceptional’ girls are inwardly anxious and overwhelmed…fuelled by intense self-criticism and fear,” according to Rachel Simmons, an American author and educator at the American women’s university, Smith College.
“We have raised a generation of young women so focused on achieving that they avoid healthy risks, overthink setbacks, and suffer from impostor syndrome, believing they are frauds.” Simmons goes on to say many girls are withdrawing from “essential relationships that offer solace and support.”
Simmons believes practical advice from trusted adults is a key success factor for girls to embrace their own personal strengths. “When girls know why they matter inside, they become more resilient in the face of stress,” Simmons explains.
So how can parents help their daughters understand that ‘supergirl’ is a myth and ‘being enough’ is truly enough? Simmons provides the following advice:
- Tell your daughter about your mistakes and failures so she won’t make the mistake of trying to be perfect. Resilience can’t be learned by watching a parent excel at everything but by watching them handle setbacks.
- Model self-compassion when something goes wrong in your life so that she will learn to be less self-critical when she makes a mistake. People who are gentle on themselves when they make mistakes are less stressed, anxious and depressed. They are also happier and more highly motivated.
- Model body acceptance. Between 40% and 60% of primary school age girls monitor their weight. “Overthinking about the body,” writes Simmons, “is partly responsible for the gender disparity in depression.” Avoid negative comments about your daughter’s body or your own. Don’t talk about what you’ve eaten or how little you have exercised. Instead, talk to your daughter about being healthy, strong and agile.
- Empathise with your daughter and tell her that stress is normal.
- Keep your own anxiety in check so it doesn’t add to hers.
- Cultivate gratitude in your daughter for who she is and what she has right now.
- Tell your daughter about “imposter phenomenon” — that everyone feels like they are a fraud or don’t belong sometimes.
- When your daughter is upset, ask her whether she wants advice or just to vent — and if it’s to vent, then “sit on your hands and just listen!”
- And, finally, remind your daughter why she is enough as she is because, “when girls know why they matter inside, they become more resilient in the face of stress.”