“Bright Girls”

I read an interesting article this week called, “Bright Girls” by Heidi Grant Halvorson. She is the author of a book called Succeed, and this was an excerpt from it.  I immediately wanted to share this with girlfriends and get their take on it as well.

Heidi says:

But in my experience, smart and talented women rarely realize that one of the toughest hurdles they’ll have to overcome to be successful lies within. Compared with our male colleagues, we judge our own abilities not only more harshly but fundamentally differently. Understanding why we do it is the first step to righting a terrible wrong. And to do that, we need to take a step back in time.

This was her point:

Researchers have uncovered the reason for this difference in how difficulty is interpreted, and it is simply this: More often than not, Bright Girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.

And hopefully you will the read the article as well (click here), but here is one other quote:

And because Bright Girls are particularly likely to see their abilities as innate and unchangeable, they grow up to be women who are far too hard on themselves — women who will prematurely conclude that they don’t have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon.

Does this describe you?  Well, it does me a bit: I do sometimes “prematurely conclude that I don’t have what it takes to succeed in a particular area, and give up way too soon.”

As an adult recently, I’ve been noticing how quickly I dismiss doing certain things – especially for AscendWorks or personal “career” goals – and write them off as “just not me.”  And I do think in some ways, there has been a healthy freedom that I enjoy in “knowing myself” – who I “am” and who I’m not.  I mean, in that I don’t try to beat myself up into thinking that “I wish I was more like so and so.”

However, I must admit that with that can come an “easy-out” mentality of not even giving something a try.  And I know why – I don’t like failure.  Or “wasted effort.”

As a girl, I was so well-loved and cheered for, but growing up in a family with only estrogen – criticism, even constructive feedback, was like a bad word and avoided at all costs!  And I experienced “natural” success in many things, so I was able to ride that wave for a while.  But when I got to college and confronted real “competition” and new challenges, I was surprised at how I would shy away from them after (looking back now) “minimal” effort.  As a child, and a “good girl,” I’m sure I was praised for my behavior, as Halvorson notes, and used my sweetness to much advantage.  But really, that can only get you so far in life.

This article not only made me reflect on myself, but also on my children and my role as their parent/teacher.  How does the encouragement and feedback I give shape their approach to challenges and obstacles?

I do think that article could have been more gender-neutral, were it not for the reality of very strong stereotypes and research.  But I think the line could have been drawn between “people-pleasers”  and those who just aren’t as affected as much by others opinions.  (on the strength’s test Don’s company offers, the metric is what we labeled “high-relational” vs. “low-relational”)  I, however, as a female do fit the stereotype as the people-pleasing-type.  But my daughter might not.  And one of my sons might struggle with this more.

I believe that the single most important thing is that a child/person knows they are loved.  There will always be much freedom and confidence coming from that, even amidst life’s tricky roads.

However, I do also believe it’s important to be “tough” with the kids – expose them to many, many challenges daily – relational, physical, mental. etc.  And watch them fail and learn and grow.  Cheer them on, but not in a flattering way.

Don is the best at bringing out the best effort in someone, even kids.  He’s been a fantastic coach these last several years to many kids. But he talks about work and effort and investment so plainly, matter-of-factly, and logically, that it takes a lot of the emotion away for kids and allows them to simply perform.  And perform well.  “It’s just work.”  It’s so neat to see the productivity and confidence abound.

He’s very candid and really makes the kids “deal with themselves.”  Which, honestly, is one of the scariest things in life.  (“looking in the mirror”; even kids like to squirm away from confronting a real issue)  He helps them step back and think about why they did or did not do something, and what would have been the right/better thing to do, etc.  I learn a lot from him and his approach/feedback.

So, I guess in conclusion, the most helpful insights and “take-away’s” from this article, personally would be that  And as a mom, I want to be cognizant of how I give feedback to the kids (especially since I am their mom AND teacher – double whammy! 🙂  I want to focus on noting persistent effort and not necessarily “good behavior.”

I appreciated the feeling of an “open door” that this article allowed me personally.  When I find myself backing away from a task at hand or new opportunity, it will help me to question whether it’s just an issue of personality preferences/strengths or a deeper issue of innate (dis)belief.

Please share your own thoughts as well.  Would love to hear them.  🙂

 

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