If the pursuit of perfection in your career is holding you back, it’s time to shift gears and chose bravery instead, says Reshma Saujani, CEO and founder of Girls Who Code and the author of “Brave, Not Perfect.”
Saujani says women suffer the consequences of striving for perfection because it starts from a young age and follows them into their careers.
“I think that we raise our girls to be perfect and we raise our boys to be brave,” she says. “And this is why women will apply for a job if they meet only 100% of qualifications, and men just 60%.”
Saujani says men are taught to embrace failure and try again, where as women fear failure and give up on their ideas.
“Women pursuing perfection are missing opportunities because they think they’re hard work or may not work out and then they let their great ideas die on the vine,” she says. “Men have so much belief in themselves and they have enjoyment in the process of failure,” she says.
And the pursuit of perfection is not making women happy, she says. For Saujani, her wake-up call came after years of striving for perfection and feeling like she was constantly coming up short.
“I thought that I would be perfect if I went to all the right schools and worked at all the right places and then I would be happy,” she says. “I woke up at age 33 literally on my floor because I was working in a job in finance that I absolutely hated and I knew what was going to make me happy and I wasn't living that life.”
Saujani decided to focus on being brave instead, something that has helped her achieve her goals and grow a successful business, Girls Who Code. She started the nonprofit after quitting her job and losing a bid for public office. While those failures hurt, they didn’t hold her back, she says.
“When I lost my race for Congress I felt like, ‘Wow I didn't die,’ and then I did another thing and another thing and another thing that was scary,” she says. “You're going to fall on and off the wagon, but you have to go back to it.”
Saujani says women need to practice imperfection in order to get more comfortable with it. For example, she recommends sending out an email with a typo on it on purpose, to see that the reaction will not be as bad as you might fear.
She also says women should do something they’re not good at and surround themselves with rejection and failure.
“I don't know a woman out there who does something that she sucks at—we do the things we're good at even if we don’t like them,” she says. “I surround myself with rejection because it stops making it less personal for me and helps me actually build my resilience.”
Finally, women need to take the leap and learn as they go, Saujani says.
“Bravery, risk taking, faking it til you make it, failing really hard and trying again, that all matters,” she says. “Bravery in many ways is like a meditation—it’s getting you to a place where you feel peace and joyful and it frees you to pursue the things you want to.”
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