The reality is that girls are more resilient than we think. That doesn’t mean that hurt isn’t real, but that their capacity to overcome shame, heartbreak, and a C on their chemistry quiz is much greater than we permit them to believe. We’re scared to teach our daughters that they can slough off humiliation, largely because we fear that letting go of the “one mistake can ruin your life” narrative will be misinterpreted as a hall pass to recklessness. The erroneous belief that fear is the best tool to keep girls “safe” and “on track” is what drives this pernicious myth of female frailty.
Acknowledging girls’ capacity to thrive after a “mistake” doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t acknowledge their very real pain. Teaching resilience doesn’t mean foisting an unhelpful “big girls don’t cry” message on vulnerable adolescents. It means focusing on giving them what we’ve given their brothers for decades: the chance to see failure –- and even humiliation -– as an opportunity rather than as a life-destroying disaster.