Our Founder comments on the growing trend of perfectionism amongst our teenage girls
A study published this week of 15k Secondary School pupils found a stark and growing divide between the wellbeing of boys and girls, sadly girls are now more than twice as likely to suffer with poor mental health by the age of 18.
Furthermore, the research carried out by Steer Education and the social enterprise Minds Ahead went on to say 80% of girls go to great lengths to conceal any signs of distress and/or emotional state changes, to their teachers and parents.
This also means the methods schools use to spot vulnerable pupils like surveys and chat hubs, fail to spot the hidden middle girls ie those who may be showing early signs of self-harm, bullying, anxiety and unhealthy self-control.
So unhealthy perfectionism and extreme self-control is alive and well in our Secondary schools and although I am not surprised by this, it breaks my heart to see girls sabotaging their right to an imperfect and authentic life.
So here’s the thing… why do you think they are behaving in this way?
Where are they learning that this is the way to go?
Why are they so reluctant to admit to any vulnerability?
Why are they not getting that some days it is OK not to be OK?
Who is telling them and who is showing them that they have to be perfect ALL the time to be accepted or even liked and to show any emotions or vulnerability is a weakness?
WHERE DO I START!
Here’s a few ideas….
How about the scourge of Reality TV with scripted dialogue, emphasis on body perfect, positioning women as bodies first then a personality, setting women up to compete with each other generally for the attention of the boy and the understanding that to be loved means you have to be groomed within an inch of your life ALL the time.
Or what about the 24/7 world of social media, particularly Instagram and Tiktok where appearance is everything and girls spend hours perfecting their pout, picture perfect stance and contouring.
Add to this mix the pressure from boys who are off down the porn rabbit hole at any given opportunity and expect girls to be porn Barbie on demand and don’t get me started on Onlyfans!
How about the messages they are getting from a society where it would appear women’s lives don’t really matter – domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, stalking, trolling and even murder are now normalised, with very little shift in the stats over the past decade, in fact, post lockdown most of these crimes are up and in a week when we are a year on from the Sarah Everard horror, what has changed? Do we feel safer?
And how about the way the media treats women who do show their vulnerabilities or get caught on camera having a meltdown or some emotional episode. Think Brittany Spears, Jesy Nelson, Caroline Flack. Nothing like a mental health story to get you on the front cover of the tabloids.
Or how about the way we treat women in power, women who have worked hard and made it to the top, smart women, clever women? Well unless you are also ‘hot’ get ready for a barrage of abuse and trolling.
And now I challenge you to consider what she is learning from you?
When was the last time your daughter saw you have a meltdown, or cry or get upset or simply have a bad day?
How aware is she of how you feel about yourself? Does she see you beat yourself up for missing the gym or going up a dress size or finding a wrinkle? How many diets have you been on in the past year?
Does she witness self-love from you or self-hate?
How is your ever present little miss perfect showing up? Whether we are ready to admit to it or not we all have a secret identity of Little Miss Perfect or Superwoman on repeat, messing with our mojo, making it impossible for us to express any vulnerabilities for fear of being seen as weak or not being enough.
Your perfectionism is not only an act of self-sabotage it is showing your daughter that this is the route to love. She may be modelling you or other women in her life.
As women we have bought into the modern myth of having it all and for many of us keeping this up means we have to run our life like a military operation, plate spinning, list making and confusing control with power. Controlling everything does not give you power, it gives you a blinding migraine and we need to change the record.
Personally, having coached hundreds of women over the past decade, I think we have confused having it all with doing it all. We have proved ourselves as leaders and as entrepreneurs but we have never let go of the domestic goddess and now we are trying to do both, perfectly and it is not only hurting us, it is hurting our daughters. Why we do this is a whole other blog! I even wrote my first book on the subject.
We need a new life model. Our daughters deserve to have a relationship with our authentic selves not the fake superwoman. They need to know we, too, feel the pressure to be beautiful, young and a size 10. They need to know that even though we are smart, we have to prove ourselves over and over again and sometimes we want to scream. They need to know we, often feel overwhelmed and that is OK, they need to know we are on the same team and only then will they feel confident and comfortable to share their feelings and worries. They are waiting for us to step up and show them the way, so let’s go!
If we are real with them, they will be real with us. It takes courage to show up without ya cape and badge but our daughters need us to do this, their mental health is at stake. It matters and remember, your teenage daughter may not always listen to what you say, but you better believe she is watching what you do!