Girls who are coming of age now have more opportunity than ever before, but they’re also exposed to an incredible amount of pressure to look, act and carry themselves in a certain way (looking at you TikTok and Instagram! 👀)
Spread Feel Good Vibes
Studies have shown that giving or receiving compliments activates the same part of your brain, – the striatum – that money and gifts does, indicating that compliments can motivate people to feel and work better.
It's also said that sending positive vibes can release the neurotransmitter dopamine - the ‘feel-good’ chemical in your brain associated with focus, happiness and motivation.
This is the same endorphin that is released when exercising or listening to music.
If speaking kindly to plants helps them grow, imagine what speaking kindly to humans can do!
Positive reinforcement isn't a new technique, of course, but it's important to note that the way she processes compliments is a neurological response - it's not just an ego boost.
Given this is the case, it's really important to be mindful when complimenting a girls physical appearance. If she starts to make a connection between her appearance and the feel-good, motivating charge she gets when she's complimented, it can lead to perfectionism, body consciousness and all the other insidious feelings and behaviours that come from being focused on your outward appearance to feel accepted and worthy.
Harness the constructive side of her brain's response to compliments by celebrating who she is and what she does in the world - rather than her physical attributes. In doing so, you'll build her pride in her achievements, creativity, diligence, humour, passion, energy, etc. which will go a long way to helping her love who she is actually is instead of how she appears.
Share Similarities; Celebrate Differences
Everyone looks different – we've got different skin tones, we're varying heights, shapes and weights; some of us have birthmarks and visible disabilities and there are countless other distinguishing features among different individuals.
Girl Scouts Developmental Psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald sums this up perfectly–
“we’re all different in so many ways, and it’s counterproductive to pretend that we’re not.”
Educate girls about diversity. One of the best ways to do this is by practising what you preach. We have a responsibility to guide kids in the right direction, so it’s important that we try to demonstrate pride in your own bodies as adults. Everyone is different and this is something to be celebrated not shunned, make body diversity normal and open for discussion.
Teach girls to love her long legs that help her run, her strong shoulders that help her swim and her height that helps her shoot that winning goal when playing netball.
World champion tennis player and all-round role model Serena Williams penned an open letter to her mother, praising her for being the strongest woman she knows.
“We are curvy, strong, muscular, tall, small, just to name a few, and all the same: we are women and proud!”, Williams reflected.
How’s that for some self lovin’ inspiration?
Praise the Effort, Not the Result
Focus less on the outcome her efforts, and more how her new skills are developing. Encourage her to try her hand at whatever sport or physical activity she likes. Whether it be water polo or walking, team sports or simply going to the gym, physical activity is the best way to help your daughter develop healthy habits and build confidence.
The Women’s Sport Foundation research concluded that girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression. They also have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well being than girls and women who did not play sports.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
A study conducted by the NSW Government and the University of Sydney found a positive link between playing sports and increased confidence, body image, academic performance and personal relationships. It’s team sports, such as soccer, netball or basketball, that help young girls build self-confidence.
By being part of a team, she develops skills and has an effective way to set goals. Whilst the occasional win can help her confidence surge, it’s losing that can often teach us so much. It allows girls to build self-assuredness, and the right skills needed to work through struggles and the feelings associated with defeat.
Team sport participation also aids girls to develop social skills and friendships, and the confidence to look inwards for validation, rather than looking for it from others.
Confidence Shines Brightly
Confidence shines brighter than any Snapchat filter or Sephora illuminator.
It takes careful manoeuvring and considered action to get through to adolescent girls, we all know that, but you can use these ideas to encourage to a girl accept the body she's in, appreciate what it can do for her and celebrate how it's wonderfully different from anyone else's on the planet.