Ainsley has been doing great in school. She is a high achiever and she loves school. We celebrate her accomplishments at home, encourage her to be proud of her achievements and create expectations for her to exceed them.
She has 41 accelerated reading points, due to reading the first three books of the Harry Potter series this term. The goal the teacher set for her was 7.7 points. She’s over-the-moon excited. It’s the most points in her class. She’s proud. And she should be.
She told her friends.
That’s where the trouble comes in.
They’ve been giving her the cold shoulder. Don’t want to play with her. Shutting her out. Excluding her. You know, that girl thing that girls do when they are mad at other girls (and don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about or that this is an unfair or untrue stereotype). There are four of them that play together and three of them are now banded together.
Banded together against The Bragger. In this instance, The Bragger is my daughter.
The subject of feeling proud of ourselves comes up frequently in women’s self-help and personal-growth books. Leslie Bennetts, in The Feminine Mistake, writes about of how women are afraid to tell their friends, too loudly or excitedly, that they made a huge deal, got a promotion, accomplished a goal or achieved a raise. Women are far more likely to complain to each other than to brag about our major achievements and successes to each other.
Why? There’s a steep social price that begins in the early days of school. Most girls and women have experienced it at one point or another.
The subject of bragging comes up at our dinner table quite frequently. Ainsley’s little brother, Zack, has a habit of goading his sister every time she gets corrected or in trouble. If I tell her to pick up her after-school mess by the door, he will chime in, “I always pick up my stuff, right Mom?” This makes Ainsley’s head spin with fury. How dare he point out the ways in which he believes he is better than her. The other night, when Ainsley said it makes her feel bad that he thinks he is better than her I asked him, “Do you think you’re better than Ainsley?” He simply replied, “Yes.” We were hysterically laughing at his genuine four-year-old response.
Maybe it is just because he is four, or maybe it is because he is male, that he unequivocally believes this. My husband, for instance, will unequivocally state that he “is a great father and a great husband.” No amount of evidence to the contrary will sway his belief about himself. I’m not saying he’s not, but when was the last time you heard a woman say, “I am a great mother and a great wife,” without pointing out her own lack of perfection or her fallibility? Never. Why? A familiar phrase from school rings in my head when I ask the question: “You’re so conceited!”
Naively assuming that girls today are more mature and evolved than my generation of girls at the elementary level (being influenced by my current more mature friends who are genuinely happy for me when I accomplish something), I recently told Ainsley that being proud of one’s accomplishments and telling others about them – otherwise known as bragging – was okay and not rude. I was soundly told that I was wrong because “her teacher said it was rude.”
Far more powerful, effective and potentially damaging to one’s self-worth and innate feeling of accomplishment (or innate desire to accomplish) than her teacher’s opinion, or mine, is a click of girls making it clear, “bragging will not be tolerated.”
I have to wonder how much ambition and accomplishment is lost in the world due to grown women continuing to abide by these playground rules.
Tracee Sioux is a Law of Attraction Coach at www.traceesioux.com. She is the author of Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.