The challenge of perfection: Creative confidence

The impact of perfectionism and language bias on girls’ creative confidence

The challenge of perfection: two thirds of girls are scared to make mistakes. Gendered language and a pressure to be perfect are inhibiting girls’ creative potential, according to a new global study from the LEGO Group.

Spanning 36 countries, the study gathered data from over 61,500 children aged between 5 and 12 and their parents, with findings making it clear that girls innately feel very creative but sometimes lack confidence when expressing their creativity. Notably, two-thirds of girls in this age bracket feel reluctant to share their ideas due to fear of making mistakes, with 3 in 5 of them feeling societal pressure to be perfect. This was also noted by parents, who agree that girls’ reluctance to making mistakes holds them back from developing and voicing their ideas, with many also stating that this impact of pressure for perfection is less prevalent among their male counterparts.

Change our words, change girls’ world

So how can we help foster creative confidence and break down the barrier of perfectionism to let girls play unstoppable? The study shows that one solution could lie in our day-to-day vocabulary.

Is society more likely to view girls’ creative endeavors as “cool” or “cute”? According to the data, it’s the latter. Society is seven times more likely to label creative accomplishments by females as “cute”, “sweet”, “pretty” or “beautiful” and twice as likely to praise creative accomplishments by males as “brave”, “cool”, “genius” or “innovative”.

Staggeringly, 58% of parents agree that society associates “cute” with girls’ creations, while only 9% believe society associates it with boys’ creations. Similarly, 37% of parents think society associates “brave” with boys’ creations, while only 17% believe that society associates it with girls’ creations. It’s thought that this simple difference in language reinforces girls’ desire to strive for perfection and fosters a reluctance to experiment while working on creative projects.

Instead of these stereotypically gendered adjectives, we should aim to use growth-mindset compliments such as “imaginative”, “brave” and “inspiring”, which girls find uplifting.

“Every girl deserves the freedom to explore her creativity without fear or pressure”

Harvard-trained parenting researcher Jennifer B. Wallace says: “What we say early sets in deep. Biased language reinforces traditional gender roles, which can play a role in limiting girls’ creativity and perpetuating systemic inequalities. It can confine them to narrow categories, such as valuing aesthetics over innovation. This implicit bias can hamper girls’ confidence and restrict their opportunities in male-dominated fields. Challenging these biases is essential for fostering an inclusive society where girls can fully explore their creative potential. Every girl deserves the freedom to explore her creativity without fear or pressure.”

The data confirms this, with 8 out of 10 girls stating that they would be less afraid to try new things if they knew their mistakes would be praised as learning opportunities. What’s more, 89% of them would feel more confident showing their work and 90% believe their confidence would be improved if adults focused on the creative process of their work instead of the final output.

The power of play

90% of parents surveyed believe that play boosts their child’s confidence, encourages them to express themselves and provides a safe space to experiment without fear of failure. Similarly, over 80% of children said they feel more confident expressing their creative ideas and less worried about making mistakes during playtime.

A great way to build girls’ creative confidence? LEGO® play, with a huge 87% of participants stating that experimenting with LEGO bricks and building sets helps them feel more confident in their creative skills. The survey also showed that LEGO play helps kids overcome a fear of making mistakes and value progress more than perfection. Parents also acknowledged that LEGO play helps their kids to see mistakes as a natural part of being creative.

Dr Anika Petrella, researcher and psychotherapist, agrees, stating: “Teaching girls that experimentation triumphs over perfection is crucial to empower their authentic, creative selves, and what better way to do this than through play?”.

How parents can help foster creative confidence

Helping to champion and nurture girls’ creativity, we have launched Play Unstoppable, an exciting campaign that celebrates girls and their creative worlds. Featuring free workshops on and in select LEGO Stores, this campaign will inspire creators aged 6-12 to unleash their creativity.

To help parents supplement this at home, we’ve collaborated with Harvard-trained parenting researcher and bestselling author Jennifer B. Wallace to create a guide setting out “10 steps to Fostering Creative Confidence”. From normalizing setbacks to introducing positive role models, this provides parents and guardians with fun ways to support their children’s creative development.

Check it out here

If they’re into it, there’s a LEGO® world of it

From gaming to magic to fairy-tale heroes, we’ve got endless worlds for girls to create.