Teaching Our Tween/Teen Girls to Embrace Imperfection

On Chasing Perfection

It took me 47 years to begin to realize that my chasing perfection wasn't a good thing. That the label, a perfectionist, isn't a GOOD thing. The funny thing is, I didn't even realize I was doing it. My own negative inner voice would whisper put-downs and I listened. I listened completely unaware that it wasn't healthy and that I could change it. I had a classic inner bully and over the years I had learned to listen to her:

  • You're not doing it right
  • You suck at this
  • Ugh look at your __________ (insert body part here)
  • Everyone else can do it, why can't you?
  • Look at her - she has it all together. Which leads to ...
    • I am not enough.
    • Why did I think I could do this?
    • I should just quit.

Lately I've had a few opportunities to observe these same voices in my own house, with my own daughter and some of her friends. I overhear comments like these:

  • I am so stupid.
  • I don't like the way my ______ looks. (I recently heard a 12-year-old say she didn't like her thighs)
  • I can't do this.

Wait, what? These are 12-year-old girls. These are the first whisperings of the trap of chasing perfection. Research shows girls are more susceptible to the trap of perfection, but boys can fall into it too.

Parenting, Perfection and Preteens/Teens

Being a parent is a difficult job and it gets even more challenging during these tween and teenage years. Our children are trying to figure out who they are, where they fit in and they want to spend more time with their friends than their parents. I hate this part, but I know it's part of the growing up process.

Parents have the incredible opportunity to model embracing imperfection. We need to empower our girls to learn to make mistakes with self-compassion. Try speaking openly and compassionately about your mistakes with your children. Help them understand no one, not even mom, dad or their friends - are perfect.

When mistakes are made we need to help our children LEARN from them. Success comes from standing on top of a pile of mistakes, rather than underneath it. We HAVE to make mistakes. It's how we learn, mature and grow.

How can we, as parents, model self compassion when we don't even recognize our own inner bully? That voice that says ... You are not _________ enough (insert happy, skinny, cute, smart, a good enough cook - and so on). The good news is you CAN change that voice. The first step is acknowledging it, then diminishing it. Try switching it to a more encouraging thought (not so easy at first, but boy does it get easier with practice).





In the Precision Nutrition Pro-Coach online program  I use with my health coaching clients there is a rule: call out and notice any negative self talk. Keep your ears open for those whispering negative comments said aloud (often laughed off) or whispered quietly to yourself. If you are unsure if that voice in your head is trying to tear you down ... ask, "would I say this comment to my friend? or my daughter?" If the answer is no - flip the switch on that thought and call it out to yourself. The first steps to freedom: 

Listening, noticing, and calling that bullying voice out.

  1. NOTICE it.
  2. NAME it.
  3. Try the opposite. Try a self compassionate thought instead of a self-deprecating one. 
  4. If you've made a mistake - just notice that too. What can you learn from it?
  5. Learn from those mistakes. Climb on top of them, one small step at a time until you are standing on top of those mistakes, rather than underneath them.