Why women should fail more: A review of “Brave Not Perfect” by Reshma Saujani

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Book Review:Brave Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder.

Author: Reshma Saujani (Published by Currency)

Book jacket, Brave Not Perfect, by Reshma Saujani

Today I start a new job, and a week ago, I was terrified. Seventeen years of school and three internships later, I am finally entering the real world of work for good. It was clear I needed advice, and in Reshma Saujani’s latest book, Brave Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder, was where I found it.

Research shows women’s need to be perfect is holding them back even when overqualified and overprepared.

The advice I received from my teachers and peers for my new job was not to be “soft” and “quiet”. They said I will be working with “old white men” (their words), so I need to play by their rules and be confident; that while I am good at advocating for others, I need to be good at advocating for myself.

In my mind however, it was all about the different ways I could mess up, and all the ways I may be considered not qualified though my resume detailed my honest credentials. Would a man in my position be having the same fears?

Reshma Saujani, author of Brave Not Perfect, and founder of Girls Who Code non-profit. (Photo: Saujani Twitter profile photo)

In “Brave Not Perfect”, Reshma Saujani tackles the problem of how girls are taught from a young age to be perfectionists rather than brave, and overcautious about making mistakes, and the consequences this has later in life.

Saujani’s story is one of many that shows women need to be okay with failure. In her book, Saujani describes why she quit her well-paying job to run for local office, suffered a devastating defeat, got back up and built something better from it. She saw the gender gap in the tech industry while touring the country for her campaign, so she started the now famous and rapidly expanding tech non-profit, Girls Who Code, to support young women coders.

The book, inspired by Saujani’s popular Ted Talk, uncovers the pressure to appear perfect and the standards of beauty that control many women’s lives. Throughout, Saujani uses anecdotes of women she’s known, and has a witty way of revealing the reality behind our perfectionist mindsets.

Saujani does discuss the structural issues facing women in the workplace, but this is not a book on how to fight to better these structural realities. This is a book for young women who want to be more self-aware in a society telling us we exist for others, and teaches us to be perfect or not try at all.

As ambitious, brave women, we will take on what life throws at us. We will say yes to opportunities to contribute to the world. We’d rather try than regret not trying. This means we have a lot on our plates, and there are bound to be mistakes. Often, you cannot be completely put together.

Saujani tells us we should be okay with this, flex our “bravery muscles”, and celebrate failure.

Being brave enough to prioritize yourself in ways that scare you is a feminist act, and the lessons from “Brave Not Perfect” inspire one to take on more challenges. Being brave can mean something different for everyone, whether its travelling alone, taking on a leadership position, or saying no to volunteer positions that become exploitative and no longer sustainable.

Most importantly, Saujani shows younger millennials what it means to be brave like a woman, rather than by the rules of men. While others may see a woman’s “quiet” nature as being a weakness, Saujani shows it is usually a strength of being “intelligently cautious and thoughtful.”

In the second half of the book, Saujani gives concrete strategies for women to overcome self-defeating thoughts and attitudes, as well as “daily bravery challenges”. By the end, it felt like Saujani was my personal supportive best-friend-coach and “Brave Not Perfect” was like my female empowerment bible.

#WorldBookDay

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