Thursday, July 12, 2012

Finally! A Reasonable Explanation as to Why I am an Underachiever

My exceptionally talented and wildly intelligent friend Kristopher Dukes, whose website is nothing short of fabulous, posted about an article she'd read in Psychology Today entitled, "The Trouble With Bright Girls."

The gist is as follows:

More often than not, bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.

...bright girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up - and the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts, rather than giving up.

Why does this happen? What makes smart girls more vulnerable, and less confident, when they should be the most confident kids in the room? At the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So there were no differences between these boys and girls in ability, nor in past history of success. The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty - what it meant to them when material seemed hard to learn. Bright girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective learners as a result.

Kristopher's response to the above was:

"So that’s why it’s 8 pm, I’m still sitting in my Marlies Dekkers, staring at my MacBook, thinking maybe I wasn’t meant to write a Great American E-Book instead of pushing myself to do so. I’m glad I found this article and was able to understand how it applies to what I’m dealing with right now."

This is something I can wholeheartedly relate to. I cannot even begin to count all of the times I've taken something on that was extremely challenging for me, only to quit because I wasn't immediately exceptionally brilliant at it.

The best example I can think of was my foray into Tae Kwon Do about 8 or so years ago. I was extremely enthusiastic about the prospect of learning a martial art - and the idea of being able to kick some serious ass - and I dove right in to classes multiple times per week. I was elated when I was able to chop through multiple boards with my own hands - and felt as if I was invincible. And then came the challenge that did me in. In order to 'graduate' from yellow belt to purple, (or whatever the colors were), I had to break a few boards with my foot. For whatever reason, I was crazy intimidated by this - and when it came to test day, I failed... dismally. It was heartbreaking. I left the class without having obtained my fancy new purple belt, and I drove home in tears. I felt like I was 13 years-old all over again.

I never went back.

Talk about a perfect case-in-point.

Needless to say, this is a terrible character flaw. It's embarrassing and inexcusable - and I hate the idea that because I happen to be a girl, I was somehow wired to behave this way. WTF?!?

If we manage to produce a child - and it's a girl - and she tries to quit something that she seems to be passionate about just because she's not immediately perfect at it, I'm going to do everything in my power to convince her not to give up.

You can read the whole article from Psychology Today here.

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