The Supergirl Dilemma: 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.

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 Inc., 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 their 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 hat 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 them

- Talk about her feelings, fears, hopes & dreams

- Tries new things

- Is proud of her accomplishments, not matter how big

- Supports girls

- 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 spirit


Supergirl :( 

- Is afraid to 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

- Feels like no accomplishment is good/big enough

- Is jealous of other girls' successes

- Wants adults to think she is happy, even if she doesn't always feel happy

- Sometimes does things she doesnt' want to do if she thinks people might like her more for doing them

- Wishes she could be smarter, prettier, more popular, more athletic, etc.