A (Not So) Surprising Factor in Raising Confident Girls
Much has been written recently about women and their rise in corporate America. One theory suggests that one factor holding women back is their lack of confidence. How does that get fixed? Obviously, women were girls first. It starts there.
In my own petri dish of raising a girl, I see that my daughter is one overconfident kid - she seems to do well on many fronts and is very happy with herself and her results. In fact, try to tell her she is not the best at any activity, and she will recite a litany of all that she does well in that activity.
Secretly, I want her to fail occasionally. I know this is good for her growth and her humility; however, some experts suggest that girls’ self-esteem peaks at age nine – unbelievable. At age 11, my daughter still brims with confidence, but I see the cracks coming as middle school approaches. How fast will her confidence crack as the rites of middle school torture take hold? Will she start to downplay her intelligence so that other kids like her? Will she let a boy win just to impress him (right now, at age 11, no way)? Will she stop leaning in and standing up for what’s right just to be part of the crowd?
While these life challenges will confront her and shake her confidence from time to time, there are several simple things I must do to help ensure she remains confident into adulthood.
According to both a Forbes article and a parenting tips blog, connecting with nature is an essential part of raising confident girls. Getting outside, playing in the dirt, camping and learning about bugs raises girls’ sense of autonomy and confidence. Who knew? Although I often read these kinds of articles for third party parental affirmation, I also dread them because I think, no, not one more thing I do not do but should to fit in. So, I often dismiss them. But luckily, these tips are relatively easy to do.
My daughter loves nothing more than finding “roly polies” and slugs (gross to me, but to her father and her – sheer delight in our garden. Gardening, not so much). Climbing a tree provides endless hours of fun, challenges and puzzles for her to solve. Lucky for us, we have kind neighbors who do not mind her climbing their tree. We camp and hike (or at least take a lot of walks) during our vacations; these are all activities that boost confidence. Free play in the backyard is also a great way to stay grounded to nature and raise self-esteem. We are not so good at that. Being an only, over-scheduled child, finding free play time is a constant struggle for me and for my daughter. I am working on it.
We do a fair amount outside, and I am no tree hugger. It takes time and effort to fit nature in to our lives regularly. This must sound fairly funny, but with school, homework and activities, it is. These articles point out that we have to fit it in if we want our girls to really break the glass ceiling, or just to be confident in themselves and their choices.
Making sure my daughter remains the confident child who believes she can be anything she wants to be is vitally important to me. If the statistics I read about women not leaning in are true, and lack of confidence plays a role in that, I want to be part of the change that helps girls believe in themselves.
Surprisingly to me, being in nature is one easy way to help girls build that confidence.
I believe it.
How will you use the outdoors to help build your daughters’ confidence?
Image: My daughter Kareena climbing a tree near our home.
By Sarita Bhargava, Director of Marketing Programs and Promotion for The Nature Conservancy.