Can Simone Biles’ Confidence Be Taught?

Think about the confidence on Simone Biles’ face every time she sticks a landing. Where does that confidence come from? That is the confidence we can only earn from our own hard fought experiences. But the community that makes building confidence possible? That environment is created by her relationships with her family, her coaches, her teammates, and friends.

We want every girl to feel a similar rush of confidence, especially given that confidence drops for girls by 30% on average for girls between 5th and 9th grade. For those of us who experienced this drop ourselves, we know the impact lingers for decades. While we may wish to just inoculate our girls against this loss by pouring confidence into them from birth, Simone Biles is the perfect reminder that confidence can’t be given, it must be earned. What we can do is create what Ife Bell, Chief Strategy Officer of To Be, calls an “ecosystem of belonging,” where confidence can be cultivated.

Simone Biles credits her community in her new sponsor campaign with Athleta, which features her mom, sisters, best friend, teammates, coaches, and boyfriend. She tells a story different from the traditional lone star who achieves greatness through her individual grit. This is a story of collective wellness, support, humor, and even joy. It isn’t an accident that this approach is sustaining Simone Biles beyond the average tenure of a gymnast. This collective approach, which centers wellness and community, is an intentional approach that can be taught and cultivated.

At Girls Leadership, we work with adults — family members, educators, coaches, mentors — to build the awareness and skills necessary to create environments where girls feel seen, valued, and supported as powerful leaders. And as Brene Brown says, we can’t give our kids what we don’t have. This means that our work begins with creating communities for our adult participants where they can be seen and valued, so they can begin the process of healing and building their own practices of collective wellness. The experience of the last year and a half makes this more urgent than ever, which is why these are foundational elements in our forthcoming professional development program, Collective Healing, Racial and Gender Equity Strategies.

Not every girl will achieve the world renowned fame and success of Simone Biles, but every girl around you has the power to contribute and make the world better as a result of her presence; she is counting on us adults to lead the way.

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