Promote Bravery Not Perfectionism
As a parent, how is our success defined?
How often do you have conversations with friends about their children and how they are going? Do they respond with ‘she is having friendship issues’, ‘she is struggling with Maths’ or ‘she missed out on a leadership role’?
As parents, we often focus on the positives and the achievements and don’t mention the struggles because many of us believe that the success of our children determines our own success or worth. We all want to be perfect parents who have perfect children. Perfectionism is a trait that we commonly see in girls.
What is perfectionism?
Perfectionism involves setting excessively high personal goals and being overly critical in self-evaluations. These individuals possess a strong internal motivation and attempt to meet unrealistic expectations.
Perfectionists fear making mistakes and need to be 100 per cent confident of success before they try something. To avoid not being good enough, they will use avoidance.
These students are often experiencing high levels of stress and, in some cases, anxiety.
Some examples of behaviours perfectionists display include:
- deleting whole sections of work,
- not ever feeling like work is completed,
- tearing pages out and starting again,
- obsessing over fine details, and
- avoidance and procrastination are also common.
Causes of perfectionism
Young girls put pressure on themselves for perfection because it gets them praise, which assists them in feeling valued for who they are and what they are capable of. With each imperfect result, her self-worth plummets. The pressure builds with the perception that her work will never be good enough.
Social media also promotes perfectionism and the importance of others opinions. Today’s perfectionist teenagers strive for the ideal image to get a certain amount of likes or reactions to validate their self-worth, filtering and editing to develop the illusion of a perfect life they can share on social media.
Parents may also inadvertently send messages of the value of perfectionism, and girls will cue into even slight suggestions that they are not meeting another person’s expectations.
Discomfort is useful
As parents, we need to encourage our girls to be comfortable with discomfort when things are challenging. They need to understand things don’t always work out as we would hope. Some tasks will be difficult, and you can’t be good at everything.
They need to be encouraged to keep trying until they find a solution and that mistakes offer important life lessons. If they can work through and overcome mistakes, they will be stronger, giving them the confidence to tackle challenges they are faced with.
Research shows that girls with higher IQs are more likely to give up on difficult tasks, so persistence through the discomfort is needed. A helpful question to ask is “what’s the worst thing that will happen if….?”
Moving past procastination
Perfectionists often ruminate on past failures and consider all the reasons why they may not excel – resulting in failing to get started. Deadlines loom, and stress develops when procrastination is in place. Lists of the steps or a checklist are a great way to get started and can break down a complicated process or task into manageable steps.
Parents often model perfectionism, so parents are encouraged to create opportunities for their child to witness or hear about you not being perfect at something important. Then follow it by discussing how you have moved past inevitable failures in life rather than attempt to shield your kids from these experiences or situations.
Openness and discussion about everyone having challenges, including parents, show young people that we are all vulnerable. We need to show that parents continue to learn and are valued for who we are as people, not for what we achieve.
Care also needs to be taken to avoid comparisons between siblings based on their achievements.
The ability to be brave, take risks and learn from mistakes develops young women who are capable, self-sufficient and willing to take on challenges. As parents and educators, the teenage years are when our girls need to be loved and accepted for being courageous. Let us all work together to promote bravery, not perfectionism.