The Perfect Girl Syndrome: Perfectionism and Self-Esteem in Gifted Girls

By Worley, Cassie | Parenting for High Potential, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

The Perfect Girl Syndrome: Perfectionism and Self-Esteem in Gifted Girls


Worley, Cassie, Parenting for High Potential


In Harper Lee's coming of age story, To Kill a Mockingbird, narrator Jean Louise Finch struggles with society's perceptions of femininity and gender expectations. She, like many gifted females, has the combined burden of dealing with traditional gender expectations and suppressing the intellectual, inquisitive nature associated with her giftedness.

Since To Kill a Mockingbird made its debut in 1960, considerable research has been published on society's expectations and attitudes toward females. Men think the most important qualities in the ideal woman are attractiveness, sexiness, and kindness.1 The media suggests females should value physical beauty and marriageability.2 Girls should be obedient, caring, pretty, and polite.

These unreasonable expectations and attitudes can create serious internal strife and negative self-perceptions for gifted girls. When females are told from a very young age that looks and sex appeal are what count in this world, they begin to hide their talents and abilities. They begin judging themselves through the eyes of those around them, craving approval, while losing a sense of who they are and what they want to accomplish. Gifted girls' increased levels of awareness, sensitivity, and potential can also magnify their conflicts and losses.3

Parents and teachers need to be aware that their attitudes and beliefs have great impact on female self-perception When gifted girls are inundated with stereotypes of the "perfect girl" or "ideal woman," they can begin to lose self-confidence and start underestimating their abilities. As their self-confidence progressively declines, their perfectionist tendencies increase.4 Helping gifted girls acknowledge barriers to success and manage their desire to achieve perfection is essential in reversing female underachievement and increasing self-confidence.

Parents and teachers can also help gifted girls explore their gifts and talents by encouraging them to take risks, explore their passions, and discuss their emotions. Gifted females want to discuss their issues and need help in presenting their feelings in an appropriate manner. However, when gifted girls were asked how adults respond to them when they are depressed, 52% report that usually adults ignore them.5 Adults need to be receptive, active listeners, and watch for signs of maladaptive perfectionism, such as emotional turmoil, anger, anxiety, guilt, and depression.

Parental Influences

Research illustrates that gender stereo-typing in toys may contribute to girl's lower math and science scores on achievement tests.6 Parents should be aware of the subliminal gender stereotypes they present to their young daughters and encourage the exploration of their daughter's talent or interest, no matter what it may be. From the time a gifted girl's parents put the first doll in her hand or lay her in a pink bed, gender stereotypes are embedded in her memory. Parents need to model that chemistry sets, construction sets, and maps are not considered male-only toys.

Mothers also have a significant impact on the lives of gifted females. Talented girls with career-oriented mothers tend to develop their talents early in life and grow up to be independent and autonomous.7 Mothers should act as role models for their gifted daughters, encouraging healthy competition, monitoring media exposure, and discussing healthy body image.

School Influence

Teacher bias, classroom expectations, and curriculum content can also negatively affect self-esteem and achievement. Studies have shown that classroom teachers perceive gifted girls as working harder than males, but tend to give gifted girls the least amount of attention.8 In addition, males are more likely to be referred for gifted programs than identically described females.9 What teachers value in boys may be viewed as negative characteristics in girls. Females are often rewarded for their ability to get along with others and cooperate; however, these same traits and behaviors may be viewed as detrimental later in the highly competitive professional world. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Perfect Girl Syndrome: Perfectionism and Self-Esteem in Gifted Girls
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.