The reality is that from a young age, the gifted females face conflicts between their own abilities, drive, and aspirations and the stereotypes and social structure of the world:
- Studies found the contents and furnishings of girls’ and boys’ rooms to be drastically different, with girls’ rooms having more dolls and dollhouses and boys’ rooms having more educational and art materials, and machines (Rheingold & Cook, 1975; Pomerleau, Bolduc, & Malcuit, 1990).
- Further studies showed that gender stereotyping in toys contributes to lower math and science scores for adolescent girls on achievement tests (Yee & Eccles, 1988; Lummis & Stevenson, 1990; Olszewski-Kubilius, Kulieke, Shaw, Willis, & Krasney, 1990).
- Up to this day, the media, children’s literature, TV shows, educational materials all present more men than women (Sadker & Sadker, 1994; Reis, 1998), and when women are presented, their appearances, rather than their talents, character, or value systems are highlighted.
- Parents want their daughters to show “appropriate” and even demure behaviours. Many expect their daughters to be polite, well mannered, and congenial (Reis, 1998).
- Within a family, the girl is identified as “the sensitive one” in contrast to a (male) sibling, who is often “the intelligent one” (Barbara Kerr).
- When a man is unmarried, he is called a bachelor. If a woman is unmarried, she is called a spinster or an old maid. There is something about a successful, unmarried woman that poses a threat to the patriarchal order of our society (Marianne Williamson).
Related: 6 Ways To Stop Hating Women
Psychological Blockages Faced By The Gifted Women
The external inequality has an internal effect, shaping how we think, feel, and see as possible for ourselves. With all the gender stereotyping and hidden sexism, many women have internalized these oppressive values.
This results in behaviors such as people-pleasing, conflict avoidance, hiding, and shrinking. An essential step in your path towards reaching your full potential is to become aware of these psychological blockages and to work through them.
1. The Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome is defined as the tendency to doubt and discredit one’s abilities and achievements (Bell, 1990), and is especially prevalent amongst gifted women. Research into the impostor syndrome began in 1978 when researchers Clance and Imes observed how women with notable achievements also tend to have high levels of self-doubt and are unable to internalize their own success.
Instead of celebrating their achievements, they have the feeling of being a failure, a fraud, or an impostor.
In contrast to how males tend to attribute their achievements to their own abilities, women attribute their accomplishments to external factors such as luck and external help. Because gifted women are naturally more capable than their peers, they sometimes achieve a great deal without much effort, which results in them assuming that they had somehow slipped through the system undetected as fakes. They believe that they are just ‘lucky’, that it is others rather than them who are truly gifted.
As a result of the imposter syndrome, many gifted women live in the constant fear of being ‘found out’. They would rather “play safe” and avoid exposure to competitiveness and intellectual challenge, thus holding themselves back from their full potentials.
2. The Fear Of Success Syndrome
Without realizing it, many women have a fear of success. Either by nature or nurture, they tend to value relationships and take others’ perspectives into account. Many see being called “gifted” as an uncomfortable burden, as it reinforces the fear of not belonging or offending others.
The tendency to hide can be found amongst gifted girls early in life: Buescher and his associates (1987) found that as compared to only 15% of boys doing so, 65% of girls consistently hide their abilities in school, as they do not want to be considered different from their peers (Reis 1998).
As a result of society’s pressure and what it says one ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ do, the capable young women change their plans to accommodate a less ambitious, more traditionally feminine role.