Many women allow their “inner critic to silence their voices” and stop them pursuing their dreams in life, says the head of the Girls’ Day School Trust.
Helen Fraser said: “If you don’t have that confidence in your own abilities, you can talk yourself out of expressing an opinion before you even open your mouth.”
The Trust consists of 26 independent schools, so Fraser is in charge of the well-being of a lot of girls, and it is encouraging to see her invested in the issue more heavily. She mentioned the pressure put on girls in the 21st Century to be perfect – “perfectly beautiful, with a perfect row of A*s, perfectly good at sport, and music, and friendship.” This hits the nail on the head for me poignantly because I agree with every word. There is an ever-growing necessity in our society to be perfect. Someone who doesn’t have a single flaw.
I feel as though I was always one of the “quiet, neat, good girls” at school that Fraser speaks of, and I was always happy to do my work, not misbehave too much, and get through the day. I was never an over-achiever but my grades weren’t bad either, I feel that I was comfortably perched in the middle. Then I looked at girls in schools who I knew weren’t any smarter than me, but had a certain confidence that allowed them to make friends easily, and command the attention of everyone. I wanted to be that girl, but even then my inner critic was always silencing me.
Fraser quoted an American psychologist, Carol Dweck, at her organisation’s annual event in London: “If life were one long grade school, women would be the undisputed leaders of the world.”
Girls outperform boys in school academically, and yet men seem to do better when it comes to the world of work. So what’s stopping us as women from being the “undisputed leaders of the world?”
One thing that is certainly true for me is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failing at a career that I’ve dreamed of since I was young. before I’ve even started. Fear can shatter the already dwindling confidence that girls have. It can creep into anxiety. An anxiety that will eat you up from the inside. You’ll constantly self-doubt and won’t know how to escape – What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail or get rejected?
Well it’s time to say: So what? Rejection comes to everyone once in a while and it’s time to face the facts. Without applying for what you want (be it university, an internship, or a job), you aren’t just depriving yourself of getting rejected but you’re depriving yourself of succeeding. You may fail, but it won’t be the end of the world. You’ll recoil and be stronger next time around. You’ll learn from your mistakes and write a better cover letter, or personal statement next time. Just make sure there is a next time. No giving up!!
And if you succeed, then perfect. That’s what you’ve been working for and now it’s time to take the plunge and prove to yourself that you’re worth it. Believe in yourself because no one else will. Don’t be the girl who self-censors and talks herself out of even expressing an opinion.
Look at me….I’m turning into a bit of a motivational speaker!