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Girls Psychology- It's a great time to be a girl -- or is it?

Girls Psychology- Its a great time to be a girl -- or is it?
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Highlights

Girls anxiety and depression are increasingly turning tragic Because behind all these possibilities is a troubling development

Girls anxiety and depression are increasingly turning tragic Because behind all these possibilities is a troubling development: Girls' anxiety and depression are climbing and increasingly turning tragic.

Girls' psychology and culture on 'collision course'

"There is a deep mismatch in terms of what the culture is telling girls and their most vulnerable parts of their psychology,".

Girls are socialized at a very young age to rely heavily on feedback from others. They grow up paying more and more attention to what other people think of them and whether they are measuring up to those external expectations.

In today's society, that relentless concern about pleasing others is on what we call a collision course with two cultural changes: the ubiquitousness of social media, which is exacerbating the need to perform, and heightened expectations of what it means to be a successful girl today.

"We're now giving girls access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). We're giving girls access to opportunities they've never had before. And we're not doing that and saying, 'Oh, you don't have to have a bikini body anymore. That's cool. You're good. You can look however you want to look,' that's the attitude.

"No, we're saying 'keep your bikini body and become an engineering major and also have a totally lit Snapchat feed on a Saturday night,' and so that's exhausting, and I call that role overload and role conflict."

Social media alone becomes a "virtual second shift" for young girls, almost like a full-time job, as they spend more time on average on Instagram and Snapchat that boys do.

"Social media enables them to curate an exhausting range of identities -- jock, scholar, beauty queen, party girl, best friend, and on and on -- demanded by the new rules of girl success, crammed into a twenty-four-hour day," she writes in "Enough As She Is."

Guys nowadays what do you think is missing in girls?? While I was working on this article on girls on college campuses and elementary, middle and high schools across the country, I started to see that the wellness piece was missing.

Despite very high levels of achievement, girls were struggling with a sense of imposter syndrome, low lack of confidence, overthinking and an enduring belief that no matter how hard they tried, they were not enough of whatever it was," I, who has a young daughter of her own.

"Moreover, the terms of success that they had established for themselves were so kind of outsized and unrealistic and unhealthy that they were on this hamster wheel of trying to get something they were never going to get."

I have come to realize that in order to help girls become stronger and more confident, we have to attend to their emotional health. "We never thought about girls' leadership as being integrated into their wellness, and ... that's the shift that's taking place, is that we need to start thinking about wellness in tandem with growing their confidence and growing their achievement."

Changing how we teach girls

Tara Christie Kinsey, head of school at The Hewitt School, a girls' private school in New York City, and a former dean at Princeton University, said that what she and her colleagues in higher education have seen across college campuses for years are young girls with "amazing ... paper resumes" with all the right grades and SAT scores.

It "looks amazing on paper, and yet the interior life of young women, in particular, was sorely lacking," said Kinsey, who has a daughter in the third grade and a son in the fifth grade.

She tells the story of meeting with a female college student when her then-5-year-old daughter burst through the office door, so excited to show her mom the contents of her kindergarten folder. When her daughter left, "the young woman looked at me, and she said, 'I remember when I used to have that kind of confidence.' "

As an educator and an advocate for girls and women, Kinsey said, she is focused on the gap between what we know girls need to thrive and be healthy and how we're teaching them every day, whether it's in the classroom or in the home.

"I think that better understanding that gap holds many of the keys to closing yet another gap, the success gap between how girls are faring in school -- where we know they're crushing it, and they're outperforming boys, and they're achieving at levels we've never seen before -- and how they're faring in life after school," Kinsey said. "They're coming up against not only a structural glass ceiling but also a psychological glass ceiling that thwarts their self-actualization."

She may be sprawled on the floor with an entire grade of middle-schoolers, tracing their bodies for an exercise on the difference between feelings you sometimes keep inside, such as jealousy, and feelings you express, such as anger. She might be sitting crisscross apple sauce with elementary school girls, talking about the difference between a real apology and a not-so-real apology.

Or she may be standing on a chair and reciting a poem demonstrating how the pressure to be perfect really undermines the ability to give and receive authentic feedback.

"What I'm trying to do is fill in the blanks in terms of some of the skills that they don't have"So, sure, they're really good at doing their worksheets and the homework and sitting quietly in class discussions and taking exams, but when something goes off the rails, then we're working with them on, how do you cope? We're filling in the blanks, and I contend that if you fill in the blanks ... then we're going to see a better balance between all of this ... on-paper success and what's happening inside.

"But right now, things are out of whack. We got overdeveloped on paper and very underdeveloped in life and in terms of resilience (and) adaptability."

It is that fear of failure that can really be crippling for girls and young women today. The young women who attend will each receive a "Certificate of Failure."

The mock diploma reads, "Having honourably fulfilled all the requirements imposed by the overload of high school, you are hereby certified to screw up, bomb or otherwise fail" during college "and still be a totally worthy, utterly excellent human,"

The girls laugh, she writes, but then they take those certificates back to their dorm rooms. "Every girl needs a Certificate of Failure," and that right.

Helping parents combat 'not-enoughness'

At Hewitt, writers also work with the teachers, helping them see the importance of trying to teach soft skills such as resilience and adaptability just like they are teaching anything else.

Instead of giving feedback on written work, a teacher might do a one-on-one consultation with the student in which they focus on her goals and what she hopes to achieve in her next writing sample.

In math, teachers don't typically give girls grades on quizzes; they give written feedback so the girls can learn from their mistakes.

"You see how that's just completely transformative to girls and relationships, to their own achievement," Kinsey said. "It's not about grades. It's about growth. It's about feedback. It's about failure. It's about honouring mistakes as a necessary part of the learning process."

As part of her work at Hewitt, Simmons a writer also meets regularly with parents and tries to help them "combat the sense of shame and 'not-enoughness' that so many parents have."

"This is an era in which parents are probably the least confident they're ever been in themselves," Simmons said. "If we want our kids to feel like they are enough, the parents have to feel like they are enough."

During coffee talks, she tries to help parents feel comfortable enough to share what they are most afraid of, such as concerns that their daughter doesn't have a ton of friends or isn't getting the best grades.

"We had a couple of faculty members who aren't parents who were sitting there going, 'Oh, my God. I had no idea that parents were that scared about their kids, and all I see is 'my daughter didn't get a good grade on the test,' and that anger is actually fear,'" Kinsey said. "That anger is fear, and what Rachel is doing in such a beautiful way is saying ''if you don't get in touch with that, you're not really modelling for girls what they need.' "

Muffy Flouret, who has a daughter in the seventh grade at Hewitt, said Simmons is helping students and parents understand what it means to fail and how to bounce back.

"She's on the edge of the research of how do we raise girls in the community, and it's invaluable, because parents who might not think twice about saying, 'Well, you didn't get the A. I'm not so happy about that,' might now think twice about that reaction," Flouret said.

She also said Simmons is helping the community understand the perils of trying to be the best at everything.

"To create this sort of pressure that you have to be the top of the soccer team and you have to be top of the debate team, it's not sustainable, and it's not realistic," she said. "Where does that leave you as an adult? You have to be able to bounce back and react to things.

"It really causes you to take a step back and say, 'What am I really doing? Am I just trying to create a cookie-cutter of myself, or (what) I want her to be?' " Williams said. "I worked in finance. I was always strong in certain subjects that she doesn't happen to like all that much. Am I pressuring her too much on math because that's not her thing? She's a dancer. She's a great writer. She's other things."

Williams said her daughter recently told her mother that she chews her fingernails because she's a perfectionist.

"I said, 'Well, I used to chew my fingernails when I was a kid,' and I said, 'I stopped doing it. And I also used to be a perfectionist and I've stopped doing that, so there's hope for you.' "

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