With social media permeating our daily lives at every turn, things can seem pretty darn perfect out there. In this Instagram world where makeup is done to a ‘T’, hair is in place, and family and friends seem to always be having the time of their lives, it’s easier than ever to fall into the “perfect” trap.
In her new book,Brave, Not Perfect, Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, says women are far more affected by this “perfection affliction” than men, and contends that this drive to do things “right or not at all” can be a huge barrier to success.
In her 2016 TED Talk(on which her recently-released book is based,) Saujani says this conditioning starts young. She makes the case that, early on, girls are taught to “smile pretty,” “be nice,” “get all A’s,” and generally play it safe in life – which causes them to hold back if they don’t feel they can perform “perfectly.” She points out that boys, on the other hand, are conditioned and encouraged to play “rough and tough,” “swing high”, and generally dive head first into life – making them more comfortable with failure and risk-taking.
“We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and our boys to be brave,” Saujani laments three minutes into her TED talk. “Some people worry about our federal deficit, but I worry about our bravery deficit. We’re losing out because we’re not raising our girls to be brave.”
Saujani contends that this “bravery deficit” is why women have, historically, been so underrepresented in STEM, C-Suites, boardrooms and Congress. I’ve certainly seen this “bravery deficit” play out in my coaching practice – from the types of jobs my clients will consider, to the degree to which they feel they’ll be successful in a particular job, to the interview process itself. When clients start to fall into this paralyzing “perfect” trap, I work with them to move forward – even though the steps may feel messy, imperfect, and a bit risky.
Saujani says that leveraging imperfection, taking more risks, and working to build our courage will help us build a better world for ourselves, and for society as a whole. So here’s to moving forward with bravery rather than perfectionism. Here’s to moving forward into a braver new world!
NEXT WEEK: BRAVE NOT PERFECT PART II – COUNTERACTING PERFECTIONISM