This post originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -Best-selling author, educator and speaker Rachel Simmons addressed a gathering of high school and middle school students at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart March 9. She spoke of the pressures girls feel today, despite historic levels of college attendance and achievement, referencing what she refers to as “the achievement trap.”
“What happens when you feel you have to be amazing at everything you do is you can’t help but feel un-amazing all the time,” Simmons said to the crowd of girls in grades six through 12 from Woodlands Academy and School of Saint Mary, both in Lake Forest.
Simmons’ first book, “Odd Girl Out,” was a New York Times bestseller and helped launch her career of teaching women the skills to build their resilience, amplify their voices, own their courage so that they-and their relationships-live with integrity and health. Her most recent book, “Enough as She Is,” aims to give adults the tools to help girls reject “supergirl” pressure, overcome toxic stress culture, and become resilient adults with healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.
In her interactive presentation with students, Simmons asked girls to examine the ways in which they were being unkind to themselves and gave them strategies to practice self-compassion. Additionally, she noted that aiming for perfection hinders rather than facilitates healthy risk-taking by not allowing for mistakes.
“I stopped taking chances because I wanted to be perfect,” she shared of her younger self. “I wouldn’t do things because I was so worried about making a mistake.”
Simmons emphasized the need for practice when it comes to making mistakes and taking risks, and gave the students practical advice for implementing strategies in their own lives.
But, most of all, she wanted to communicate to the girls their inherent “enoughness.”
“I want you to know that the stress you feel, the pressure you feel to achieve and do all of these things perfectly, those are not your fault. Those are put on you by some impossible societal standards. You are enough as you are. Just as you are.”
“I feel so fortunate that our students were given the opportunity to hear from this amazing speaker,” Woodlands Academy Social Studies teacher Amy Perry said. “I see first-hand the pressures high school girls feel especially as they go through the college application process, I hope today can serve as one resource to help them navigate those pressures.”
Perry will continue to engage with Simmons’ resources as she participates in the Conversations with Rachel program offered through the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools. During this program, Perry will read Simmons’ latest book, have access to an Educator’s Guide, and opportunities to ask Simmons and enter in dialogue with fellow educators.
Founded in 1858, Woodlands Academy is an independent Catholic college preparatory day and boarding high school for young women. It’s part of a worldwide network of Sacred Heart Schools that spans the United States and 40 other countries. A nonprofit, Woodlands Academy’s identity is rooted in Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat’s desire to inspire young hearts and minds to excel, to lead lives of integrity and to serve. For more information about Woodlands Academy, please visit www.woodlandsacademy.org