I can remember very clearly the need to please that I had as a little girl. As an adult, I’ve read reports that explain how “good girls” come to develop this motivation and desire for approval, and how that childhood mindset impacts them as adults.
That’s why the message of a new book—Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder—resonates with me. The author is Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani, and she’s speaking directly to teenage girls—and women—about the importance of shaking the mindset that it’s bad to make mistakes, to not be perfect.
Particularly with the high-pressure lens of social media, girls today can have a hard time ignoring what can seem a requirement to live up to an ideal of perfection. Not always encouraged to take risks, sometimes even trying a new subject or sport in school is avoided.
I was enrolled by my dad in both basketball and softball programs as a young girl, but still vividly recall being gripped by fear at the thought of messing up and letting people down. I was too paralyzed to be comfortable even trying, so Dad gave in and I very contentedly gave up.
Saujani and many others agree that while unintentional, girls are taught to avoid failure and risk—to play it safe and get straight As. They are often steered by parents and teachers towards subjects and activities where their success is most likely.
“Boys, on the other hand, absorb a very different message,” Saujani writes in her book. “They are taught to explore, play rough, swing high, climb to the top of the monkey bars—and fall down trying. They are encouraged to try new things, tinker with gadgets and tools, and get right back in the game if they take a hit.”
This disparity plays into one debate taking place this Valentine’s Day, as one school cancelled the annual Father Daughter dance that has taken place for decades.
Teaching girls that being brave—being willing to accept mistakes or failures and learn from them rather than be embarrassed by them—seems such an obvious thing. Yet, we may be behind the curve in our collective message to girls and young women when it comes to resilience.
Saujani appeared on Good Morning America to promote the book, and she offered teen girls in the audience some suggestions on how to begin the process of being brave and moving beyond a self-limiting mindset. Her call to action is to “practice imperfection”.
It sounds odd but just may be on point for learning early in life to be brave.
About the Author
Tammy is Director of Communications for the Pegasus Springs organizations and a communications and public relations consultant. She’s an award winning journalist and blogger, a contributor to the book ‘Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories’ and mom to two young adults and two fur-babies.