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5 simple ways to grow confidence in young girls

by Renee Morad /
Kids playing on the beach
Kids playing at Beach Apple P-31Stephanie Rausser / Getty Images
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A confidence gap is not always easy to spot in young girls, especially when they’re bringing home good grades and excelling in their extracurricular activities. But many are learning habits early on that can stifle their self-confidence well into adulthood.

In fact, the confidence gap between men and women starts around the age of eight, according to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, co-authors of the best-selling book “The Confidence Code for Girls.” Know Your Value’s Mika Brzezinski recently sat down with the authors to talk about ways to help grow confidence in young girls.

Many young girls are simply not learning the essential skills that will help them become leaders later on. They aren’t gaining the tools that will someday help them negotiate their salary, ask for a promotion or take on risky assignments, Kay explained.

“This is part of the equation we can control,” Brzezinski said. “This is part of the equation that we should really focus on as early as possible.”

Kay and Shipman shared their top five tips to help girls believe in themselves from an early age.

Be your own coach

“Our inner voice is critical,” Shipman said. She suggests encouraging young girls to tell themselves simple stock phrases, like “I know you can do this, you’ve done this before” or “you’ve got this.”

When girls treat themselves as a coach would, they can combat the negative voices—like “I’m going to fail”—and give themselves that push to get out there and try.

“Ultimately, it might mean getting out there and doing it when they’re frightened anyway,” Shipman said.

Embrace failure

“At some point in life you’re going to fail,” Kay said. However, failure comes with a great learning opportunity.

After a setback, it’s helpful to understand why that failure happened. For example, determine whether it was a result of, say, being distracted by social media or not studying hard enough.

“Once you’ve calmed down from that failure, which to a girl can seem catastrophic, go back and think about what you can do better next time,” Kay said.

End online agony

Social media is really tough, Shipman said. Putting your phone down for a few minutes or for 24 hours, if, say, you’ve had an argument with a friend, can eliminate the need to use social media in a negative way.

There are many positive ways to use social media, so focus on helping young girls learn ways to use it to their advantage.

Drop the drama

Girls tend to think they’re the center of everybody else’s attention, especially when that attention is negative.

“Remind girls how little time they spend thinking about other people’s failures,” Kay said. “That will help them flip the equation.”

The bottom line: they’re not everyone’s headline news, and they certainly shouldn’t be led to believe they are.

Ban perfectionism

“Perfectionism is the enemy of confidence,” Shipman said. “When you’re a perfectionist, you don’t want to take risks and you don’t want to fail.”

Reminding girls that perfectionism isn’t attainable and rewarding other behaviors, like positive risk-taking, instead, can go a long way for helping girls develop a strong sense of value.

“If you can help your girls learn these things, they will have a better life,” Brzezinski said. “They will make more money, have stronger relationships, and have a deeper sense of themselves and a true sense of their value on every level. They will learn how to communicative effectively from the get go,” she added.

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