This post: Why We Need to Teach Our Daughters to Be Brave, Not Perfect
I need you to tell your daughter that she needs to become comfortable with being imperfect, that she should ask questions, disrupt the status quo, learn to take risks and remind herself that failure should be viewed as opportunities to try again.
This powerful message is the premise behind a viral TED Talk given by Reshma Saujani, author of the book “Brave, Not Perfect,” and founder of Girls Who Code, a program dedicated to building the world’s largest pipeline of future female engineers.
According to Saujani, “We’re raising our girls to be perfect and our boys to be brave.”
We teach our girls to walk the straight and narrow, play it safe, avoid risk and failure at all costs, get good grades and smile pretty. Meanwhile, we stand on the sidelines and loudly cheer our boys on encouraging them to swing high, play rough, go for the win, and take risks.
And social media isn’t helping matters. Under a haze of synthetic realism, our girls are hearing the constant quiet whispers that to be considered beautiful or attractive, they need to be fit, skinny and glamorous.
It should come as no surprise then that girls approach risks and challenges apprehensively all while questioning their competence, value and abilities, whereas boys charge full steam ahead with an “I’ll figure it out as I go” mentality.
It should also come as no surprise that our girls might question their worth if they don’t feel they measure up based on what they view on social media and they might be less inclined to accept themselves along with the wonderful imperfections that make them unique.
“Risk and failure are part and parcel of any big accomplishment,” claims Saujani. “But when we inadvertently (often with good intentions) encourage our daughters to follow the safe path and strive to fit in, we make it harder for them to climb professionally – and we deprive the world of the incredible contributions they’d make if they were braver. We need to teach our daughters to be brave.”
Bravery is the magic potion that will help our daughters pick themselves up off the ground and keep going through difficult times.
Bravery is what will help them excel in their relationships, careers and life. Bravery is what will encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and do more than they ever thought possible. Bravery is what will set them apart and set an example to other girls and women.
Here are 10 powerful tips to encourage your daughter to face the world with confidence, bravery, and strength.
#1 Help Her Find Her Voice
Helping your daughter become brave starts at home. Give her a voice, let her get angry and give her the freedom to challenge you (respectfully, of course). When she faces challenges in life with friends, teachers or co-workers, encourage and help her to stand up for herself and voice her thoughts, opinions and beliefs. Don’t raise a daughter who’s comfortable with keeping things status quo or fearful of upsetting the apple cart. Help her become comfortable with being “heard.”
#2 Instill the Power of “Yet”
The word “yet” added at the end of each negative statement your daughter makes will help her realize that life’s small setbacks or her feeling that she’s simply not good at something is pliable and temporary. “I’m not good at Chemistry… yet.” “I can’t figure out this math problem… yet.” “I’m not a good soccer player… yet.”
Instill the belief that she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to if she’s willing to put forth the effort.
#3 Teach Her to Be Nice, But Not Too Nice
When we teach our daughters to be brave, we need to also teach them that “nice” will only get them so far in life. For the most part, girls are raised to be nice. Yet, in your daughter’s effort to be sweet to others, avoid hurt feelings or avoid being viewed as difficult or quite possibly even “bitchy,” she might become a little too nice for her own good.
Even though assertiveness has oftentimes been viewed as bossiness, we need to toss those assumptions aside and teach our girls to stand strong, (despite the possible outcome). Teach her to set boundaries and assert herself when needed and necessary and avoid apologizing for speaking her mind.
#4 Model Bravery Yourself
Our daughters are watching. They’re watching what we do with our time, how we manage stress, how we face life’s adversities and how we push through our fears. If we face life with bravery and a healthy amount of grit, so will she.
#5 Give Her Freedom to Make Mistakes
It’s been proven that mistake-based learning is one of the most powerful ways for kids to learn. Loosen your grip on your daughter. Let her figure out a few things on her own – even if, deep down inside, you know it might be a mistake. Let her battle through a few smaller rainstorms on her own so she’ll be better equipped to handle the big storms later.
#6 Encourage Her to Step Out of Her Comfort Zone
Life is filled with challenges and hurdles. The only real way to gain confidence and skill is to jump in feet first and practice being courageous. Encourage your daughter to do something she’s scared of. Whether it’s trying out for the school play or the soccer team, applying for an internship she’s not sure she can get, or walking up to a boy she’s been admiring from afar, give her the vote of confidence (and possibly a nudge) to go for it and step out her comfort zone.
#7 Squelch the “Poor Me” Mentality
Your daughter is capable of great things… providing she pushes through her fears and doesn’t allow herself to wallow in her mistakes, missteps, misfortunes and sheer mess-ups.
We all get the wind knocked out of our sails from time to time – it’s called being human. But the secret to success is finding the courage to pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward – even when it’s hard. (There’s no such thing as failure – only detours, only opportunities to try again, only stepping stones, only lessons.)
#8 Encourage Her to Surround Herself with Others Who are Brave
Bravery inspires bravery. Encourage your daughter to seek out friends and mentors who have big dreams and who aren’t afraid to take healthy risks in life. Become friends with the class president, the girl who has the lead role in the school play or a professor who exhibits the strength and confidence your daughter aspires to have. The more she sees it and listens to it, the more she’ll begin to admire it, which will inspire her to do the same.
#9 Remind Her that Bravery is Learned
Bravery isn’t something you’re born with, it’s learned. Stop cautioning your daughter to be safe, careful and cautious because the underlying message you’re telling your daughter is that she shouldn’t be pushing herself, that she’s really not good enough and that she should be afraid.
Instead, remind her that to become comfortable with being brave, she has to put bravery into action rather than conveniently walking away from it every time she’s scared or uncomfortable.
#10 Implement the 5-Second Bravery Rule
When my son was younger and was looking to muster up the courage to talk to a girl he was crushing on, I told him to count down from five… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then GO talk to her! According to a powerful speaker, Mel Robbins, when you count down, you disrupt all the negative self-talk (“I can’t, I shouldn’t, I’m not sure”) and you free up your mind to think about what you want to do, not what you’re scared to do.
Just 5 seconds… to muster up the courage to talk to someone you admire, to raise your hand in class when you think you know the answer, to make the decision to try out for the team, to ask for a job or ask for a raise. Just five seconds.
When we inspire and teach our daughters to be brave, we’re equipping them with the lifelong tools and internal resources they need to make decisions and assessments in their lives. We’re teaching them to become better, stronger, more confident, and more capable. We’re teaching them to become the best they can be.
Interested in watching the full TED talk? Click on the “teach our daughters to be brave” video below!