38% of girls ages 8 to 12 told us they’re jealous of the way other girls look.
Can anyone really reach perfection?
Ah, perfection. Almost every girl strives for it—and not because they’re competitive spotlight-seekers. Actually, many girls see being perfect as the only way to ensure they won’t be laughed at, criticized, or labeled “not good enough.” Only problem is, nobody is perfect. So you can drive yourself perfectly crazy with pressure to be “perfect”…or you can learn to be perfectly yourself. Want to find out how to set real goals, make the most of criticism, and stride around with sky-high confidence? Keep reading!
“I was so proud of my 93 in math… until someone who got a 100 asked what I got. Suddenly I felt terrible about my 93! I had to remind myself it doesn’t matter what that person got or thinks about my grade. The only thing that matters is whether I’m happy with it.” -Molly, age 12, N.J.
Just because your BFF is worried about her weight doesn’t mean you need to drop five pounds. And just because your mom always wished she stuck with piano lessons doesn’t mean you have to become the next Beethoven. Learn to recognize the difference between your own personal goals and someone else’s. Set high expectations for yourself, but be sure those expectations make sense for you…not for your best friend, your mom, or anyone else. Then, when you reach a milestone, pat yourself on the back! If you were seriously struggling in math and made your goal of a B, have a pizza party to celebrate….yes, even if your friend is tearfully shredding her B+ paper! Don’t let comparisons throw you off course. Maria Sharapova may be a better tennis player than you, but you still have every right to be proud of your killer backhand!
“Because of my learning disability, I’ve had to work extra hard and learn new strategies to do well in school. But it’s also taught me that everyone has things that are hard for them, and everyone has things that they do really well. No one does everything well or everything badly.” -Melanie, age 12, Va.
Have you ever glanced at a gorgeous model and thought, “Darn it, why can’t I be perfect like she is?” Easy: because she’s not perfect. Just because you don’t see flaws doesn’t mean they’re not there. So why aren’t you seeing that the math whiz can’t spell to save her life, or that your pretty neighbor struggles with acne? Maybe it’s because part of you likes believing that perfection is possible. Maybe it even feels inspiring in some weird way to compare yourself to these “flawless” girls—it gets you motivated, right? Sure. Unfortunately, it motivates you to aim for an impossible goal, which leads straight to…you guessed it, Pressure City. Instead of obsessing about your flaws and putting other girls on a pedestal, focus on your strengths. Start by recognizing those things you’re naturally good at—and don’t discount all your accomplishments as “easy” or “unimportant.” If you can do a perfect cartwheel or draw the world’s cutest kittens, if you always give your friends smart advice or know just how to make them laugh, let yourself appreciate those qualities the way you appreciate others’ strengths. Keep a list of your own talents and skills and add to it often. And from now on, when you find a “perfect” person, remind yourself that if you could see them as clearly as you see yourself, they’d have as many flaws as you…or anyone else.
When my dad kept correcting my ice-skating moves, it made me want to quit. But when I told him I felt pressured, he said I should focus on improving rather than getting upset that I’m not perfect. Slowly, I realized he had a point. The next time I showed up for practice with my coach, she said everything was looking really great! -Sofia, age 11, British Columbia
When you’re being criticized, it can be hard to separate the useful bits—the comments that can actually help you improve—from the nasty ones that eat away at your confidence. When your coach barks, “Can’t you run any faster?!” or your mom asks, “Are you sure you want to wear that?” the only message you hear may be, “You’re not good enough.” And that makes you want to put your hands over your ears and just stop listening. But consider this: If the criticism comes from someone who truly has your best interests at heart, it may contain valuable information that can help you improve. Instead of shutting him or her out or going on the defensive (“I’m doing the best I can!” “But I love this ratty old sweatshirt!”) try to open yourself up to the possibility that your criticizer might be even just a little bit correct. It may be hard to appreciate this when you’re feeling criticized, but the person is giving you an honest opinion and may sincerely be trying to help. If you listen, you might learn something. On the other hand, if somebody’s nitpicking is sapping your enjoyment of an activity, you don’t have to give their words the power to make you feel bad. If you’re feeling extra sensitive today, tune out your dance teacher’s harping on your posture, at least for now, and dance just because you love it. You don’t have to be focused on self-improvement all the time. And remember: In the end, you’re the one who chooses how you react to someone’s feedback.
Whenever I watch TV, there’s some show on about celebrities. They always look so pretty, and it gets me thinking about how I never look that good. But then I think to myself, you’re pretty in your own way, especially on the inside. And I think about how special I really am. -Lindsay, age 10, Md.
If your best friend blurted out that she felt dumb or ugly, would you just stand there as the poor girl sobbed…or worse, agree with her? Of course not! You’d rush to remind your friend of all the ways she rocks. So why not treat yourself with the same kindness? Next time you hear yourself thinking negative thoughts about you because you’re not perfect, pretend you’re your own best friend. Remind yourself of what matters in your life: your health, your values. Your friends and family. Your inner beauty. Reassure yourself as often as you need to…before the unfair comparisons take over. Remember, you have the power to make yourself nuts trying to be perfect (whatever that means), but you also have the power to make yourself happy—and to love who you are. And being perfect? You’re too busy being you to bother with that!
“Every day I spent hours straightening my naturally wavy hair and smoothing it into place. Then one day my hair got drenched in the rain and dried curly. I was freaking out, thinking everyone would laugh at me. Turns out everyone loved it! I got more compliments that day than any other.” -Jenna, age 13, Wash.
Originally printed in Discovery Girls magazine. Share this with your daughter.