5 Ways to Help Girls Resist the Pressure to be Perfect


These tips are adapted from You’re Amazing! A No-Pressure Guide to Being Your Best Self

by Claire Mysko (Adams Media)

Girls today are told they can do anything. Unfortunately, the message they’re often getting is that they have to do everything–and please everyone while they’re at it. All this pressure is adding up to big time stress. According to The Supergirl Dilemma, a study conducted by Girls Incorporated, more than half of girls in middle school reported that they often feel stressed. By the time girls get into high school, that number jumps to 74%. One third of all girls in grades 3- 12 said they often feel sad and unhappy.

When girls get caught up in the quest to be supergirls, they are less likely to feel confident in themselves and more likely to struggle with low self-esteem and poor body image. Here are five tips to help the girls in your life tackle The Supergirl Dilemma.

  1. Does the pressure to do it all sound familiar? Supergirls and Superwomen hear the same voice, and it says “you’re not good enough.” Remember to give yourself a break and take time for healthy stress relief. If we want to break this damaging “super” cycle and set positive examples, we have to start with ourselves.
  2. Teach girls to be savvy and critical media consumers. Resist the urge to simply lecture about what you think is inappropriate. Instead, ask them what they like about the movies and TV shows they watch and the magazines they read. What do they dislike? Talk about the difference between fantasy and reality by showing girls real examples of retouching. Point out how often retouching is used to make models and actors look artificially flawless.
  3. Encourage girls to exercise their bragging rights. Girls are often hesitant to talk about what makes them amazing because they don’t want to be seen as conceited or they feel like they’re not perfect enough to be proud of themselves. Turn that thinking around by challenging girls to take pride in all of their amazing qualities, not just their achievements. Ask a girl what makes her amazing. If you get a sheepish shrug or an “I don’t know,” press on. You can spark the conversation by sharing a few of her qualities that you think are amazing, but don’t let her off the hook until she can say this sentence out loud: “I’m amazing because…”
  4. Discuss the value of making mistakes and taking healthy risks. Many girls are so focused on being perfect and doing things “right” that they miss out on valuable opportunities because they are so afraid of failure. Share a mistake you made or a risk you took in life that helped you get where you are today.
  5. When girls talk about the pressures they feel, the best thing you can do is listen. Don’t judge, interrupt, or get upset. Remember that what girls need most of all in their lives are supportive adults who take the time to hear what they’re saying.


Amazing Girl

  • Asks questions
  • Makes mistakes and learns from
  • Talks about her feelings, fears, hopes, and dreams
  • Tries new things
  • Supports other girls
  • Is proud of her accomplishments, no 
matter how big or small
  • Knows three trusted adults she could 
turn to if she had a problem
  • Knows how to set boundaries and 
say no
  • Takes care of her body, mind, and 

Super girl

  • Is afraid of not knowing the “right” answer
  • Makes mistakes and agonizes over them
  • Keeps it to herself when she’s stressed or sad
  • Doesn’t take on new challenges
  • Is jealous of other girls’ successes
  • Feels like no accomplishment is good enough or big enough
  • Wants adults to think she is happy, even if she doesn’t always feel happy
  • Sometimes does things she doesn’t want to do if she thinks people might like her more for doing them
  • Wishes she could be smarter, prettier, more popular, more athletic- -the list goes on

Everybody Knows Somebody. Get involved in NEDAwareness Week 2012, February 26- March 3! Visit the NEDAwareness Week homepage under Programs & Events to register today and learn more about how you can do just one thing to help raise awareness about eating disorders and become part of the solution. National Eating Disorders Helpline: 800 931-2237


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