Stress has become a significant barrier to adolescent girls’ wellness.
That’s according to the findings of a research project entitled Seeking Support in a Culture of Effortless Perfection.
Co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, author, and academic Rachel Simmons joined Simi Sara to talk about girls and perfectionism and over-achievement.
“When you look at girls people tens to say ‘wow, girls are doing so well’ – they’re going to college and universities in greater numbers, they’re getting good grades. And sometimes when you line the data up against boys, the picture kind of seems like endless potential.”
But, says Simmons, when you look under the hood, you see a lot of destructive behaviors around perfectionism, self-hard, a lot of shame, anxiety and depression.
“We’re seeing that manifest very much at universities with the mental health problems that are continuing to unfold and intensify. We’re also just seeing it as parents and educators.”
Simmons embarked on a research project entitled Seeking Support in a Culture of Effortless Perfection with co-investigator Michelle Tugade.
Simmons and Tugade are working with school communities across North America including Crofton House School in Vancouver.
LISTEN to the full interview here:
As researchers we’ve been noticing that high-achieving young people often feel the need – particularly girls – to engage in what’s been called effortless perfection. Which is looking as though you have it all together in every part of your life, and as if you are not expending any effort doing it.”
Simmons says that has added a whole new layer of pressure and expectation, so not just working hard, but making it look effortless.
Advice for parents?
Parents have to help both boys and girls to moderate their workload.
“Because they are going to school in a culture that tells them nothing is ever enough, and so it is incumbent on parents to stop them and say “actually this is enough, and you are enough.”
She says if parents don’t say this to kids, they aren’t going to hear it very often anywhere else.
Simmons says parents also need to focus on what kind of skills their kids need to thrive during this time.