Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code tells women to be Brave, Not Perfect
When Reshma Saujani ran for public office at the age of 33, it hit her that she had done something truly brave. She had taken a big risk without worrying about failure. She didn’t win but the fight gave her a sense of courage she never had until then.
In Brave, Not Perfect, Reshma explores how and why women are conditioned to chase perfection and why it is important for them to them to get out of the mould and try to be brave.
According to Reshma, here are a few things you can follow in your attempt to be brave.
Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code
Stop chasing perfection
Men and women are conditioned differently since childhood. Girls are dressed in pink and encouraged to play with dolls, and read about princesses. They are seen as delicate, weak, and in need of protection. And that is why they are always told to be well behaved and agreeable while boys are encouraged to be brave and assertive. Eventually, with this kind of conditioning girls always try to be a model of everything good and perfect.
Later on, this translates into women seeking perfection in everything they do - work, motherhood, balancing work and home, image, and grooming. Reshma Saujani points out, “We underestimate our abilities and hold off going for a job unless we are absolutely sure we’re 100 percent qualified.”
That is what stops us from taking chances, and becoming a risk taker who doesn't concern herself with 'what ifs'.
"So many women stick to doing only the things at which they excel, rarely going beyond what makes them feel confident and comfortable."
It’s this perfection that she advises women to stop chasing.
Learn to say 'no'
In Brave, Not Perfect Reshma cites examples where girls don’t want to say, 'no' to peers due to the fear of being branded mean or bitchy. While men have no qualms saying no, women always try and adjust rather than say no.
"Saying 'no' is hard at first; I won’t lie. It’s one of the biggest challenges we face on our path to becoming brave, but it’s also the most gratifying. It’s remarkably empowering to claim your right to put you and your life priorities above the mandate of making nice for the sake of everyone else."
Get out of your comfort zone
The only way to be brave is to ditch the cocoon of safety perfection offers. By trying to be perfect, women miss out on the opportunity to do more. Men may not do things perfectly - as a father, a husband or as a colleague or boss, but they don’t feel guilt, are okay with mistakes, and move ahead quickly. Reshma says,
“The pursuit of perfection may set us on a path that feels safe, but it’s bravery that lets us veer off that 'supposed to' path and onto the one we’re authentically meant to follow. Perfection might win us points for popularity at the office, but it’s bravery that lets us speak up and take a stand when we are hit with workplace sexism and harassment.”
Being brave gives us the opportunity to be in the game. It allows us to not be impacted by our surroundings and what people think of us.
Like Reshma says, “No matter what demons we face, bravery allows us to stand strong and keep going. Bravery-not perfection-is the only true armor there is.”
Take that first step
The best way to take that first step, Reshma advises, is to take a step back and ask yourself, “What might be the cost be if I don’t do this... and which option scares me more?” The answer to that should help you take the first step.
And every time, you hesitate remember you are not perfect, so embrace your failures and vulnerabilities. Don’t let that idea of perfection that you have been chasing stop you.
Reshma suggests, “You have to trust that you’re going to be okay, that you have something to offer. You need to be brave enough to trust yourself, knowing you’ll survive even if it fails.”