The Problem With Smart Girls (Part Two)

The Problem With Smart Girls (Part Two)

Judging by your responses to yesterday’s post here and on my Facebook page, I’d say this is a topic of interest. Read “The Problem With Smart Girls (Part One)” or the article that inspired the post, and then let’s look at some possible help for our Smart Girls (or ourselves).

The conclusion of Halvorson’s article is a good starting point:

No matter the ability — whether it’s intelligence, creativity, self-control, charm or athleticism — studies show them to be profoundly malleable. When it comes to mastering any skill, your experience, effort and persistence matter a lot. So if you were a Bright Girl, it’s time to toss out your (mistaken) belief about how ability works, embrace the fact that you can always improve and reclaim the confidence to tackle any challenge that you lost so long ago.

Between the author’s instructions, my original thoughts, and your feedback, I’ve come up with a short list of ways to fight the general fears and insecurities of Halvorson’s so-called Bright Girls. (I’m using Smart Girls as my own derivative.)

My Answers for Smart Girls:

1. You Need Support – In the Rare Rocks analogy, this is your setting. Many of the comments from yesterday mentioned the people (moms, husbands, friends, etc.) who had pushed or encouraged the Smart Girls to overcome their initial fears or insecurities. These girls need parents who are willing to push past emotional outbursts and keep their daughter’s true to their studies (in instruments, art, academics, and so forth). If you parent very young girls, you should consider changing the way you reward her vocally. Remind her she’s not just “good” and “smart” but she’s also a “hard worker.”

My daughter Claire’s nemesis is cerebral palsy. At eight years-old, she still meets weekly with occupational and physical therapists who are in a constant battle with her confused neurological system. Yet Claire insists on staying in dance class and races to the playground as soon as she gets home from school. She knows she doesn’t move like all the other girls, but she doesn’t mind. As she trots off with the therapist late on Monday afternoons,  I try to remind her, “Work hard today.” She always does, and I know it’s going to make a big difference for her one day.

I also think Smart Girls who are prone to perfectionism need another kind of support, too – the kind that reminds them that they don’t have to perform well to be loved. In my second year of Bible College I nearly had a nervous break-down. I’m not sure even what that means, I just know there were lots of tears, too much pressure, and one scared girl. My Dad stepped in. He removed me from all my classes, my volunteer work, and my life. For two weeks my instructions were to ONLY do things that relaxed me or brought me joy. I read a lot. I painted. I listened to music and took naps. Smart Girls need coaches and advocates, but they also need unconditional fans. I want to be that for my Smart Girls.

2. You Need Discipline – In the Rare Rocks analogy, this is the cutting and polishing. In everyday life this is where you fight your flesh. You exercise even when you would rather sleep. You wash dishes even when you would rather watch Netflix. You teach your children to obey even when you would rather just stay in your chair and surf the Internet. You practice piano even when it doesn’t come naturally anymore. You fight for your character growth by making small decisions everyday.

My Mom is famous for telling us, “Discipline your art!” I never realized how difficult that really is until I started writing. Now I know what it takes to write something well, and I often think, “I’d rather read someone else’s blog!” The point of discipline (of any kind) is to train yourself to do what is currently impossible. Smart Girls need discipline. They need to be reminded that practice will eventually make perfect.

3. You Need Success – And I don’t mean beginner’s luck or sweepstakes success. I mean, yeah-I-worked-my-tail-off-for-this success. You need to face something that looks impossible or totally outside your abilities, and you need to beat it.

This feeling of success is one of my favorite things about college. The semester usually followed this pattern: see book list and get excited, see syllabus and get scared, begin coursework and get overwhelmed, – I can’t do this! I hate this class! my loving husband’s sweet silence – finally dig into material, sort it out, and learn something, close the class feeling like a mini expert in new topic. (I may be addicted to this happy feeling!)

Ada just needs to make a few turns on her own to taste the success of bike riding. After that, I’m afraid she’ll never want to stay home! And that’s the point of this whole post for my Smart Girls. It may take some support, some discipline, and a success story or two, but there is a lot of hope for Smart Girls. I know it will be bittersweet when those hot pink and purple streamers pull out of sight, but I’ll be smiling proud when they do.

How could a little support, discipline, and success help you, Smart Girl?


10 Replies to “The Problem With Smart Girls (Part Two)”

  1. Well, since I have been talking my husband’s head off lately about WHAT I want to write and HOW I want to write and how I’m going to get it right, I’m thinking that’s my bike to ride. I’m great at one kind of writing, one basic theme, one way of saying it. But the books I want to write aren’t that. I’ve loved these posts reminding me I can learn a new thing and get better at it.

  2. I need some discipline, big time – and the knowledge that I can work at writing what I want to write; it can be learned. It’s not the impossible thing I’ve been making it out to be. And yes, support is also what I need right now – encouragement to keep getting back on that bike. Great post, Felicity.

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