A lot can derail a young girl’s confidence, from pressures to look perfect and get top grades, to having their lives on constant display in social media. Studies show that girls’ confidence drops dramatically as they move into their early teens and beyond. To journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, those results signaled a crisis. But how to help girls navigate the challenges they face every day?
They packed their new book, “The Confidence Code for Girls,” with tips, lists, quizzes, comics and true stories from real girls—all to help readers grow into confident women. It’s available now in Target stores and at Target.com in standard edition or an exclusive version that comes with a downloadable poster and an extra quiz. You can also pick up a copy of the exclusive version signed by both authors here at Target.com while supplies last.
We sat down with Katty and Claire to hear more about how the book came to be.
What were some of the confidence barriers you faced when you were growing up, and how did those personal experiences influence this book?
Katty: I was quite a perfectionist when I was young. I always wanted to please people, so felt I should do things exactly right. When we started research for this book, the pitfalls of perfectionism and people-pleasing rang so true to me.
Claire: How funny, that’s my answer too! And probably the answer of millions of women. Sigh. Perfectionism. Like Katty, my biggest barrier growing up, which I didn't understand, was that I was a perfectionist. I felt I had to get everything right, get straight As, never fail. You know the drill. And that meant I didn't like to take big risks. But again, I didn't understand that at the time. I've wasted a lot of time in my life checking things off a list that is pretty meaningless.
Which pieces of advice have come in handy when raising your own daughters?
Katty: Encourage them to take risks, even if that means failing sometimes, and discourage them from trying to be perfect. Good enough is OK sometimes.
Claire: I feel so lucky that we started this research in time for me to correct my parenting. My daughter is a real rebel, and doesn't care much about being different. She likes to wear ‘boy’ clothes, not comb her hair (or cut it all off). All sorts of things that can make everyday life stressful, if you allow it to. Luckily, understanding that risk-taking and authenticity are critical for kids has helped me be much more relaxed and supportive of who she is. Also, it's been terrific for me with both kids in terms of helping me watch both my son and daughter fail at things, and know they will be OK. I can now resist the urge to jump in and fix things.
As you travel the country talking to parents, teachers and girls, what are some of the biggest challenges they face?
Katty: Girls tend to underestimate their abilities, just as women do. We've found this to be the case all across the country—it's something we have in common, whatever background we come from. Girls and women have so much talent, but they tend not to value themselves as much as they could.
Claire: Our data is startling. A new poll we've conducted shows that between the ages of 8 and 14, girls confidence drops by 30 percent, and, in fact, we never catch up. One of the biggest challenges is just recognizing what’s going on, and then dealing with culture of perfectionism among young girls. Our data also shows that more than half of teen girls feel pressure to be perfect. Three in four teen girls worry about failing.
What are some ways adults can translate what’s in this book, along with their own experiences, to help empower their girls?
Katty and Claire: Encourage the girls in your life to take risks, remind them not to try to be perfect and help them to honest about the downsides of failing, because it's usually not nearly as bad as they think. Girls sometimes have a tendency to ‘catastrophize’— they jump to the worst possible conclusion. Help them realize that taking risks and even failing doesn't need to be so terrible; in fact, it can even have upsides. We learn through our mistakes and failures.
Anything else you’d like readers to know about the book?
Katty: This book is based on research and dozens of interviews with psychologists and neurologists, but we definitely wanted it to be something girls would enjoy reading. We tested it out on our own tween daughters (with some trepidation) and even they said it's really fun to read.
Claire: I hope that parents understand we're not saying girls need to ‘fix’ themselves—there's been enough of that over the centuries. What we're truly hoping is that girls’ confidence can eventually be in line with their abilities. We want them to look at opportunities and say, ‘Of course I can,’ instead of ‘I'm not prepared.’
Ready to get reading? Pick up “The Confidence Code for Girls” available now at all Target stores and on Target.com.
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