Why Girls Feel Stuck, Procrastinate, And Can’t Make Decisions

Raising Daughters | Procrastination


In this podcast, Dr. Tim Jordan describes over a dozen reasons why girls feel stuck and can’t make decisions, including: focusing on things they have no control over, living too much in the past and future vs. the present, allowing fears to hold them back, perfectionism, old limiting beliefs, becoming overwhelmed with fears and uncertainty, and being too externally motivated and living by other’s wishes and rules.

Links to previous podcasts of Dr. Jordans that relate to this topic:

Listen to the podcast here


Why Girls Feel Stuck, Procrastinate, And Can’t Make Decisions

In this episode, we’re going to talk about why girls feel stuck. I see a lot of girls in my counseling practice, the youngest is in middle school, but especially in high school, and/or the women I work with in coach in college who feel stuck in their lives for a whole variety of reasons. I started out with maybe a handful that I thought of off the top of my head, and I wrote those down. I kept thinking of others and others, then I ended up with a long list.

There is a feedback I’ve been getting. I’m going to cover as many as I can. At the end, I’ll talk about what you can do to help support your daughters to get unstuck. Probably, I’m going to have to have a part two for this episode on how to help your daughters get unstuck. First and foremost, let’s talk about why your girls might feel stuck. Stuck means there are points in their lives where they feel paralyzed. They need to make a decision and a choice.

Reasons Why Girls Might Feel Stuck

They feel stuck because too much fear comes up. Lots of reasons come up, which causes them to not be able to decide, make a decision, move forward, and take action. It may have to do something with letting go of a toxic friend. That was in an episode I did. You can go back to that. It might be about choosing courses in school. Are they going to go to college or not? What college? What do they want to study? Maybe about a dating relationship. There are many places in their life where they have to make a choice where they’re at a crossroads in their life, and they feel stuck there. They don’t trust themselves to make a decision. Let’s talk about some of those reasons why girls might feel stuck.

Girls and young women, oftentimes what I find is that they spend way too much time focusing on things they do not have control over, instead of focusing on things that they do have control over. If you’re focusing on things that are out of your control, then you’re going to get frustrated. You can’t always get what you want because many other people are telling you what to do. There are many circumstances out of your control, and then you’re left to the devices of other people and you don’t get what you want.

They spend way too much time focusing on things that they don’t have control over. I see that frustration that mounts and then oftentimes, leads to more procrastination, and then they feel like they’re immobile and they can’t make a choice. That’s one big thing I see with girls and young women. They also start focusing sometimes on things that they don’t have as opposed to what they do have.

That includes their inventory of the qualities that they can bring to a situation. They don’t trust themselves because they’re focusing way more on lack than on abundance. When you focus on lack or what you don’t have, that’s discouraging. At a time when you’re at one of those forks in the road, you want to be more confident and encouraged and not discouraged, pessimistic, and negative. A lot of times what causes that negativity is that they’re focusing too much on what they don’t have as opposed to what they want.

A lot of times, what causes that negativity is focusing too much on what we don't have. Click To Tweet

Way too many times, girls are spending way too much time living in the past or the future and not enough time in the present moment. You’re living in the past. A lot of times, you’re bringing with you some old baggage and negative beliefs. You’re bringing into focus some old feelings, depression, and discouragement. If you’re living in the future, a lot of times that becomes anxiety because you’re worried about, “What if I make the wrong choice? What if I make a mistake? What if things don’t go my way? What if?” If you’re spending a lot of time in the future land of what-ifs and getting all anxious, it’s much harder to move forward. It’s much harder to make a choice or decision because you’re afraid of goofing up. You’re so afraid of making a mistake or making the wrong choice.

Living in the past often does bring baggage that is discouraging for girls. They may feel sad about something in the past or discouraged or unhappy, and that clouds their judgment and emotions. That space is hard to make a good choice because you have all this other stuff pulling on your emotions, old baggage, and old negative limiting beliefs, which I’ll talk about in a moment.

Living in the past oftentimes brings with it baggage that is discouraging for girls. Click To Tweet

What they need is the present moment. That’s hard to do sometimes because you’re not used to that. Especially in this busy and distracting culture, they’re so used to scrolling, “What’s next? I’m bored. What else can I do? Who else is out there? What if?” They have a harder time being quiet, alone, and in the present moment. That’s where they need to be to make decisions and to know what’s right for them.

We haven’t done a very good job of training them how to do that. A lot of times girls feel stuck because they’re letting their fears rule anxiety, their fears of uncertainty, making a mistake, and that wrong choice again. I tell them a story. I think I talked about this story one time in an episode a while back, and this is how lions hunt in Africa. I read this story somewhere. It’s an old African proverb.

When the lions are hungry and they hear a gazelle, the young female and male lions go downwind of the gazelle. They hide in the bushes. Upwind, they place the oldest male lion in the pride. He’s old and weak. He can’t run. He has no teeth, but what he can do is roar with the best of them. When all the lions are set up, this old lion sits up and roars. The gazelle hear him. They startle. They smell him upwind then they run downwind right into the path of the young female and male lion. They all get eaten up.

The moral of the story is when you hear the roar in your life and you feel your fear, the tendency is to run away from it to avoid things. That’s what causes oftentimes feeling stuck, running away from a problem and from something because you’re afraid of a bad outcome, mistake, or whatever. You get eaten up by your fears. That’s common with girls. I see that often in my counseling practice. I teach them to hear the roar instead of running away from it.

When you run away from it and you avoid things, you end up making it harder to do it in the future because, in your mind, you create a bigger and scarier story about why you shouldn’t do an audition, why you shouldn’t try out for a team, and why you shouldn’t take that AP class. You build a story up bigger and bigger when you avoid it, and then you get eaten up again by your fears, instead of hearing the roar, feeling your fear, and then going towards it and through it. As the lion’s story tells us, your fears almost never have as many teeth as you thought.

I tell girls all the time, “Think about all the times in your life when you’ve been afraid of something, got all worked up, and then you end up doing it. In the end, you realize, “That wasn’t bad after all. It was a good thing.” They can always rely on those old stories to get them the courage to say, “It’s okay. Go for the roar.” I did an episode called How Unrevealed Commitments Prevent You from Getting What You Want. Go back to that episode. I don’t want to spend much time on here, but oftentimes, the metaphor is if you’re shooting a bow and arrow aiming for a target across the field, you say, “I want that target. I want that in my life.” It might be a friendship, relationship, making the team, or getting into the college that you want, and you keep aiming for that and you shoot the arrow, but it keeps falling short.

The reason it’s falling short is that there’s something unconscious below the surface that’s pulling on you, keeping you stuck, and keeping you from getting what you want.  I talked about that in detail. That’s a big one. It’s important that they develop an awareness of those unrevealed commitments. Some girls end up getting stuck because they’re perfectionists. They’re working on an art project. They need to build up their portfolio to send to colleges because they’re applying to art schools and they don’t do it because they start a piece of work and then they get frustrated because it’s not what they want then they stop, rip it up, and throw it away. That perfectionism keeps them stuck because they’re afraid of not doing it perfectly.

Perfectionism And The Fixed Mindset

Most of the time there is no perfect. They procrastinate and stay stuck. They get angry at themselves. They get down on themselves. Girls who are perfectionists, oftentimes, are hard on themselves, and that’s discouraging. That’s one of the most common reasons I see that girls get stuck. They can’t move anywhere because they’re afraid of not doing it right, or even worse, doing it perfectly. Sometimes those girls, because they’re hard on themselves, it’s not uncommon for them to develop what they call a fixed mindset as opposed to a growth mindset. Google that. There are all kinds of research on that.

A fixed mindset happens when something starts getting harder. For instance, some research studies were done with middle school boys and girls. They looked at their Math scores. Up until about sixth-ish grade, boys’ and girls’ Math scores were pretty much the same up on the graph. In sixth grade, both boys’ and girls’ Math scores started to go down a little bit because Math got harder. For 1 or 2 years, the Math scores stayed down and then the boys’ scores started going back up in high school and got back to their level. Whereas the girls’ Math scores tended to stay down. They didn’t recover.

In the old days, we said, “I guess girls aren’t good at Math. I guess boys are better at math than girls,” which we know is not true nowadays. What they ended up finding was that in general, girls tend to have more of a fixed mindset about things especially when it came to things like Math and Science. Part of that reason might be because they don’t have role models to look up to and say, “If she can do it, I can too.”

That’s getting better, but for some reason, girls’ brains are wired to have more of a fixed mindset. What this research study did was they coached the girls in 5th grade before they started 6th grade. They told them, “Math is going to get harder. Some of your grades might be a little bit lower. You may get frustrated, but what you do not want to do is tell yourself, ‘It’s getting harder. I can’t do this and therefore I’ll never do it.’ It’s either you got it or you don’t. You’re either born with it or you’re not. When it gets hard, I may end up saying, ‘I guess I’m not good at it,’ then you shut down and don’t try as hard.”

They coach the girls to be aware of that process and that thinking and instead, say to themselves, “It’s getting harder because it’s getting harder. What I need to do is focus more, work a little harder, and develop some new strategies. If I do that, I can grow in my Math skills, my soccer skills, or any skills for that matter.” What they found was the girls that did not get the coaching, their Math scores stayed low. The girls that did get to coaching their Math scores, like the boys, recovered because they developed a growth mindset.

A fixed mindset will keep some kids stuck. They get discouraged and keep telling themselves over and over again, “I can’t do this because I’m not good at it. Not only am I not good at it, but I’ll never be good at it. I don’t have it.” I think another thing that keeps growth stuck is they get too externally focused. We’ve taught them as a culture to look outside themselves for, “Am I okay? What do I need?” They become way too dependent upon what they need from other people as opposed to looking at themselves and saying, “What can I do about this?” To trust themselves, their intuition, and their gut. They become way too dependent upon other people.

I find that especially true nowadays more so than it was 20 and 30 years ago. We’ve been doing too much for kids and they become too reliant on us doing things for them, rescuing them, problem-solving for them, and fixing their problems. They don’t develop the muscles to push through, stick with stuff, persevere, and have that kind of determination that says, “Keep at it. I did it. Therefore, I can keep doing it if I get stuck again.” The stuck feeling comes from, “I don’t know how to do this by myself because I needed my parents to do it for me.”

I coach a lot of college women who get stuck in that way. They were reliant on their parents and when things get hard in college and they’re away from their support system, they fall apart. They feel stuck, don’t know what to do and they shut down. They get very emotional, frustrated, sad, and feel lots of anxiety in women in college. That’s one of the reasons why.

Another thing that might keep girls feeling stuck or being stuck is that they have in many ways throughout their lives given up their power. I did an episode a while back about A Dozen Ways Girls Can Keep Their Power. Go back to that. There are many ways we’ve conditioned girls to give up their power like the good girl conditioning, not too out there, not too much, giving up their power by letting other people’s words bother them and doing things to please other people or to not disappoint other people.

That’s a huge one. A lot of the girls who I see and young women who are having a hard time with decisions, especially ones who have been reliant on their parents, who have done things their whole life to please their parents and to not disappoint their parents. Now they’re 14, 16, 18, 22, and they’re not happy in their situation, but they’re afraid of venturing off in a different direction because their parents may not approve, and that keeps them stuck. They’re still too reliant on pleasing other people. It’s not just their parents. We’re a big part of it.

It could be not going to displease or disappoint a teacher, a professor, a boss, their friends, or whatever it might be. That process and life path of doing things to please others will keep them stuck and unhappy. In many cases, the ones I counsel are miserable because they’re not doing what they want. They’re not happy because they’re not doing their thing. They’re not leading their life. They’re leading the life that others want them to lead.

They get frustrated, unhappy, and resentful, and oftentimes, they shut down and end up blaming other people instead of pointing the air at themselves, taking responsibility and saying, “What can I do about this? This is my life. I’ve been blaming other people and getting me nowhere. I need to start taking more responsibility and saying, ‘What do I want?‘“ That’s such a key shift for girls and young women to be able to go inside and say, “What’s right for me? What’s my reason for wanting to do this?” I’ll talk about that in the next episode when I talk about ways to help girls get unstuck.

Part of that way of giving up their power is that they still believe some old limiting beliefs about themselves. They may have had experiences with friends and families where they end up thinking, “The reason this is happening to me, the reason my friends have ditched me and are excluding me, the reason my dad, after the divorce, isn’t spending time with me or calling me is because I’m not lovable. I’m not important. I’m not good enough. There’s something wrong with me. I don’t fit the mold. I’m not attractive enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not good enough as a huge one.”

Girls’ Belief Systems

If girls are carrying around those beliefs in their heads and hearts, it’s going to affect every one of their behaviors. It’s going to affect the way they show up. If your belief system is, “I’m not lovable or important. I’m not deserving. I’m not good enough,” you’re not going to show up with much confidence and you’re going to have a hard time making decisions because you don’t trust yourself or you’ll make a choice it’s not good for you.


Raising Daughters | Procrastination


I see that often. A girl is picking unhealthy dating partners or friends, making decisions that are not in alignment with who they are because they don’t feel like they deserve better. That’s a hugely important limiting belief and process that can keep girls stuck. I find that some girls may have a passion that they want to pursue. They want to become a writer because they’ve always loved writing. They love art. They want to do something in the art field.

I’ve even had a bunch of girls, several handfuls of girls in the last half dozen years who always wanted to be a teacher. Those passions of theirs were discouraged by their families. Most often because as you can probably guess, you can’t make enough money, and that turns my crank. They have a passion. They love writing. They want to do something in the art field, and their parents say, “You can’t make money,” so they give up on it, but then they don’t know what else to do because that’s what they want to do.

That makes them feel angry, resentful, and stuck because they’re not doing what they love. They’re not pursuing their passions and their interests. I’ve seen many kids who get discouraged by that. When they’re young, their parents in grade and middle school say, “We are not going to support you if you decide to go into theater or whatever.” Even though lots of those skills transfer to lots of things, that’s a whole other episode in itself. I’ll do one of those someday.

We have to do a better job of not discouraging kids from their passions, especially when they’re young. I did an episode called How To Help Young Adults Learn To Deal With Uncertainty About Their Future. Go back to that episode. A lot of times girls get paralyzed by uncertainty. It paralyzes girls and young women a lot. They’re worried about making a mistake. If they make one bad “mistake,” they believe it’s going to derail their whole life. That paralyzes them from moving forward because they’re worried.

We've got to do a better job of not discouraging kids from their passions, especially when they're young. Click To Tweet

It’s that they set anxiety and they don’t understand. We haven’t taught them that when you’re in a transition time in your life like when you’re going from middle school to high school, high school to college, college to the next phase of your life, there’s always going to be uncertainty. That’s part of the package. You have many choices, not everybody, but a lot of kids, who have choices and the freedom to make choices, along with that comes uncertainty.

It’s like if you go to college, there’s going to be a lot of excitement about that, a new adventure you can’t wait, but along with that comes some fears because it’s new. You’re living behind your support system. You’re living behind your friends, “Am I going to be able to make new friends?” Along with that excitement also comes some fears and uncertainty. That’s part of it. Part of life. There’s going to be uncertainty that’s involved with change and with transitions. We don’t prepare our daughters well enough to deal with that.

What else? A big one is that we don’t talk about enough systemic issues like systemic racism and stereotypes that can hold people back because they aren’t given the same opportunities. They don’t have the same number of resources. People look at them in a different way. They have a harder time being accepted into groups in certain situations. That’s a whole episode in itself to talk about systemic racism and the stereotypes that can hold girls back. I’ll do one of those in the future.

We have to understand that the system is not always geared to support certain kinds of people. Because of that, it makes it harder for them. They get discouraged and can feel stuck. It’s like they’re banging their head against the wall and are doing everything right, but they’re still not given the opportunity. That’s a huge one that we don’t talk about enough.

I read a story a while back about a man named Robert Johnson. He is the Founder of Black Entertainment Television, BET. He was the 9th of about 10 kids, and nobody had gone to college. He had decent grades, but he knew he wasn’t going to be able to afford college. In his senior year of English class, his English teacher asked the class, “How many of you are going to college?” He was the only African-American kid in his class and the only one who didn’t have his hand raised. He was embarrassed so instead of being singled out, he raised his hand.

About a month later, the teacher told all the kids in the class, “All those who raised their hands last month when I asked how many of you’re going to college, how many of you had begun filling out applications for college? How many of you met with a college counselor? Let me see a show of hands.” Everybody raised their hands. All these white hands went up. He looked around and he reluctantly raised his hand again. That motivated him. For the first time in his life, he started to consider another option for his life. He visited one of his friends who was a year older, Preston Pearson.

Preston was at the University of Illinois. He went there and talked to Preston. He walked around the campus and got inspired. He started putting financing together for himself. He got some loans and a job cleaning the microbiology lab in his school and at college as well. Robert Johnson said, “Going to college changed everything for me. I love learning. I love socializing, but it opened up my eyes to limitless opportunities available to someone willing to look for them.”

He said, “Looking back, coming up with $224 to finance college was my first multi-part deal. My most recent deal was selling the BET holdings, the Black Entertainment Television network to Viacom for $3 billion. It all started because a teacher asked one question,” and then he wouldn’t let it go. All of our kids need mentors. They all need people behind them, supporting and encouraging them.

Some kids don’t have as much of that in their families. We need to provide that somehow. A way that some kids can get stuck is they don’t have the encouragement and the resources to do what they want to do. I talked in the past about how sometimes kids get emotionally overloaded because life happens and things happen. They don’t do a good job of handling their emotions, releasing and channeling them appropriately in healthy ways.

Emotions build up to the point of overload and overwhelm and then it can leak out as anxiety, feeling blah, losing your motivation, feeling stuck, and being distracted. One of the things that keeps some kids distracted is the emotional stuff that goes on that causes them to shut down, feel blah, unmotivated, procrastinate, and not do what they know they need to be doing.

I see that with burned-out athletes a lot in my counseling practice. They’ve been doing these nutty twelve months of the year youth sports things on one team, hyperspecialized starting when they’re 8 or 9 years of age. By the time they’re freshmen and sophomores in high school, a lot of them are burned out. They have had too much of it, too much stress and pressure. They end up quitting and shutting down.

Some of them need to either quit or do more than one sport, take 2 or 3 months off. They need something, but a lot of times that’s not afforded them. There’s no off-ramp for that for a lot of kids. They become way too focused on the destination and not the process, too focused on the end result, ie., a college scholarship, winning a national championship, or being on the best club team, and not enough focus on the journey.

Handling And Releasing Emotions

It should be fun when you’re playing sports when you’re in grade school, middle school, high school, and college pros. Especially when you’re a kid, it should be fun. We take the fun out of it with all the pressure and stress from these super competitive hyperspecialized youth sports. Girls need to learn how to handle their emotions and release them so things don’t build up because when they are under that emotional overload, it’s hard for them to do anything. They are too overloaded and overwhelmed.

Girls need to learn how to handle their emotions and release them so things don't build up. Click To Tweet

I understand why they end up shutting down. It makes a lot of sense. That means sometimes those girls have moderate to high levels of depression or anxiety. That could be part of the overload. If you have a lot of anxiety, obviously those fears can oftentimes hold girls back or young women. If they’re depressed, that holds them back because they don’t have the energy and motivation. They feel blah. They’ll mosey along and they can’t seem to get things done. That emotional stuff is a big one, especially depression and anxiety. I’ve seen a lot of young people in different stages of their life, especially high school, college, and in their early going in their young lives who might have a job that at first was exciting and they liked it, but then they end up feeling stuck in that job.

They get unhappy. They start blaming other people. They’re unhappy with their boss. They start seeing things that they don’t like in their boss and they start seeing something in the environment that’s toxic. They don’t want to do that anymore. Oftentimes in my experience, what they’re experiencing is they’ve outgrown that job or that experience. They need to move on to something a better situation, that will better meet their needs at that point.

They’re not the same person at that moment that they were when they probably started that job. They’ve changed. Their motivation has changed. What they want may have changed. That’s part of growing in your job. instead of feeling stuck, blaming, upset, frustrated, and all that, what they need to do is start looking to move on and find something else that better meets their needs at that point.

That’s hard for some people to do because they don’t like change because change brings uncertainty. Change might bring some more fears and at least you’re going forward towards something that’s a better fit for you at the time. There are a lot of reasons why girls might feel stuck in their situation in life and why they may be having a hard time making a decision. Girls talk about feeling paralyzed. They know they need to make a decision. They know they need to take some actions, but they can’t get the energy stir up to do it.

All those reasons that I have now put out for you oftentimes will fit girls and young women. They might need to sit down and talk to someone like me and figure out what’s going on. What’s your unrevealed commitment that’s keeping you from getting what you want? Do you have some old unresolved limiting beliefs that might be holding you back and the emotional overload? They might need some counseling, a coach, or a mentor to help them through that time. They also need your understanding.

I’m going to do an episode talking about, “What can you do?” I listed a whole bunch of ideas. There are a lot of things you can do to help your kids through those times and not do it for them. You can support them and advise them, but they need to figure these things out for themselves with your support. I’m finding a lot of times in this day and age that I’m seeing more girls with that kind of stuck place earlier, younger. It’s not just girls who are seniors in high school, applying to colleges and looking forward to the next big leg of their journey. I’m seeing the anxiety, uncertainty, and blah feelings and the overwhelm with girls who are in middle school and even sometimes in later grade school.

We need to do a better job of supporting our girls, understanding what’s going on for them, and even better, helping them understand what’s going on for themselves. That awareness is key. They understand what’s going on inside of, “Why am I having a hard time moving on? Why am I having a hard time taking a step? Why am I procrastinating even though I know I shouldn’t? Why can’t I make a decision?” There are reasons why and they need to become aware of.

That’s enough on this topic. I gave you a lot of food for thought. I have on my list 4 or 5 previous episodes where I’ve gone into detail about certain topics like dealing with uncertainty and reframing old negative limiting beliefs and things of that sort. Go back to those episodes and then that’ll help you fill in the blanks for what I didn’t talk about in this episode. I will be back here with the brand-new episode. I appreciate you passing these on to people and your friends. This might be one you tune in with your kids if they’re feeling stuck to give them some awareness and to stimulate some conversations with you so you can better know how to support them. I’ll be back soon with an episode about what to do about this topic, but also other topics as well. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you back here.


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