Raising your daughters to be nice girls creates a long-term problem. You see, nice girls continue on to become nice women. You may be thinking “And that’s a problem because? Being nice is a good thing.”
It is good except when it’s not. Like when you believe being a nice girl means:
- You are SUPPOSED to be agreeable.
- You SHOULDN’T make waves.
- You CAN’T be honest about your feelings.
- You NEED to make up a reason why you’re saying “No” to an invitation to a party, dinner or networking event. It’s not nice to just say you don’t want to go.
- You SHOULDN’T give your opinion, especially if it disagrees with the group.
- You SHOULDN’T give direct, candid feedback related to someone else’s work or actions.
- You SHOULDN’T tell someone you don’t like something they like.
- You HAVE to keep secrets from someone because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or have them get angry.
- You SHOULDN’T ask for what you want.
- You SHOULDN’T talk about your accomplishments.
These “rules” came from actual women. They learned these “rules” regarding their behavior when they were girls growing up. Not just from you, Mom and Dad, but from the media, from other family members, from school, from coaches, from friends.
Lionizing the Good [Nice] Girl
“Lionizing the good girl” is what Rachel Simmons, educator, called it in her book, The Curse of The Good Girl. Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. She continued by saying the power and potential of girls are curtailed by the impossible standards set for them in childhood and carried forward into adulthood.
Impossible standards create a striving for perfection, which is an illusion.
If your daughter or you believe:
- It’s selfish to ask for what you want.
- Even mentioning your accomplishments is tantamount to obnoxious pumping-your-chest boasting.
- It’s wrong to give direct feedback because you “shouldn’t” hurt someone’s feelings.
- Meeting the impossible standards of being nice trumps honesty about how you think and feel.
Then, how can you be you?
How can your daughter learn that her opinion and her ideas have value when she doesn’t have the confidence to speak up because she doesn’t want people to think she’s not a nice person? How will she have the courage to defend what she believes in or say “no” or disagree with friends or co-workers if she herself believes that doing so makes her a “mean-girl” or a “bitch”?
How We Can Raise Empowered Daughters
#1: Don’t dismiss her feelings with statements like
- “Oh that was no big deal”.
- “It’s nothing to cry over.”
- “You shouldn’t be mad at Whitney. Now go over and apologize.”
Statements such as these, while the intent is to be helpful (or an attempt to end your own discomfort when your child is angry or unhappy), they have the impact of teaching your child that her feelings are wrong.
She starts to feel shame about how she feels. She starts to believe “should” be feeling something different than she does. She learns to apologize to other people even when it’s not a sincere, nor warranted.
#2: Do teach your daughters (and your sons) how to identify and appropriately verbalize their feelings. When you suppress emotions it’s similar to trying to hold a ball under the water. You can hold it down for a while, but then that ball comes shooting with great force out of the water.
What could have been talked about “I was hurt by what you did” instead comes out as anger or rage. “You’re a jerk, I never want to talk to you again.” Anger is a secondary emotion because it’s a cover-up for other feelings such as hurt or sadness or embarrassment.
Ask “What made you angry?” “How did that make you feel, besides angry?” Then listen. Don’t judge or give advice. Let your daughter talk, eventually deep feelings are revealed.
By teaching our daughters how recognize, own and accept their feelings, we are teaching them to be empowered adults. It’s the beginning of the end of bottling up feelings and having them eventually come out sideways.
The next step is teaching her how to deal directly and honestly with conflict.
Want more straight-to-the-point advice on how to live a purpose-driven life? Visit Cherry online at www.borderlessthinking.com!