Mental health

Girls' Confidence Plummets at as Young as 8. Here's How to Help Them — or Yourself

Washington, D.C., confidence coach Dina Scippa works to help women and girls 'embrace the fundamental belief that they are enough'

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What to Know

  • Research suggests that many girls’ self-confidence takes a nosedive from ages 8 to 14. Tweens and teens report self-doubt, pressure to please others and a compulsion to be perfect. 
  • A number of coaches and writers and working to boost girls’ confidence. Here are three tips from D.C. confidence coach Dina Scippa on how to help girls — or yourself. 
  • The first recommendation is to identify and squash negative thought patterns.

Do you wake up every morning feeling like a fierce queen? 

Some days it’s tough, an eighth-grade girl said in response to the question on a Washington, D.C., confidence coach's podcast.

“The days that I have confidence, I use it to the best of my ability. I fight with it. I strengthen it. I make it big. And the days that I don’t, I kind of fake it ’til I make it,” the 14-year-old named Bella said. Her family opted to withhold her last name to protect her privacy.

Confidence coach Dina Scippa works to help women and girls "embrace the fundamental belief that they are enough,” she said. Her company, Enough Labs, is named after that goal. 

“My vision is for girls to embrace how enough they already are. You have no idea how enough you already are,” she said during Women’s History Month.

Scippa, 39, offers one-on-one and group coaching sessions, workshops and retreats, both in-person and online. She launched her company last year on the H Street Corridor of Northeast D.C. 

Scippa is one of many coaches and writers working to boost the confidence of women and girls. A look at the publishing world alone suggests there’s a big market for the guidance; the self-help books “Untamed,” by Glennon Doyle, and “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life,” by Jen Sincero, are bestsellers.

Dina Scippa (Credit: Courtesy of Dina Scippa)

Research suggests that many girls’ confidence takes a nosedive at as early as age eight. In their 2018 book “The Confidence Code for Girls,’ writers Katty Kay, JillEllyn Riley and Claire Shipman found that girls’ confidence drops by 30% from ages 8 to 14, with a particularly steep drop starting at age twelve.

The writers and a polling firm asked a diverse group of more than 1,300 girls across the country, “How confident are you?” Some boys reported lower confidence at the same age, but not to the same extent. 

“I feel like everybody is so smart and pretty, and I’m just this ugly girl without friends,” one teen girl told the authors. “I feel that if I acted like my true self, that no one would like me,” another said. 

Scippa’s tween and teen clients report self-doubt, pressure to please others and a compulsion to be perfect, she said. Many girls are “completely disconnected to what makes them happy,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made some of these feelings worse and separated girls from friends and activities that give them a sense of identity. 

Scippa, who’s trained as a youth coach, said her own confidence plunged at age 10 or eleven. She didn’t feel attractive or like she fit in, and those feelings — as they do for many people — carried into adulthood. Her turning point came in her late 20s, as she worked as a gender equality specialist on international development projects.

“I saw the impact I was having on girls around me,” she said. 

Here are tips on how to help boost a girl’s confidence. The same concepts can apply to all kinds of people: 

1) Identify and squash negative thought patterns. The more energy you give a thought or idea, the more it grows. You’re not far behind; you’re right where you need to be. 

2) Motivate with courage, not fear. Imagine what courage would look like. 

3) Help a girl connect with what makes her happy. Find it and you’ll help her thrive. 

Scippa said she’s hopeful about girls’ future when she sees individual girls start to accept themselves as they are. 

Your smile should be big and you should walk so fearlessly

Bella, 14

Bella, the 14-year-old girl on Scippa’s podcast, said she started to compare herself to other girls when she was about 9 years old. 

“Things start coming up. Dress sizes become a thing. Bikinis become a thing. And suddenly it’s, ‘Is my stomach too big? Is my hair too long? Am I too tall? Am I too short?’ All of these thoughts just start flooding in,” she said. 

Lately, though, her perspective has changed. 

“Nothing should matter except who you are, and the only thing that you should worry how big it is is the size of your smile. Your smile should be big and you should walk so fearlessly,” she said. 

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