In a new book inspired by her popular TED talk bestselling author, Reshma Saujani hopes to empower women and girls by encouraging them to be braver.
Reshma, from New York, is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization which aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science.
The organization is working to close the gender employment difference in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like.
‘Imagine if you could let go of the guilt, and stop beating yourself up for tiny mistakes. What if, in every decision you faced, you took the bolder path?
‘Too many of us feel crushed under the weight of our own expectations. We run ourselves ragged trying to please everyone, all the time.
‘We lose sleep ruminating about whether we may have offended someone, pass up opportunities that take us out of our comfort zones, and avoid rejection at all costs.’
There’s a reason we act this way, Reshma says. As girls, female children are taught to play it safe. Well-meaning parents and teachers praise girls for being quiet and polite, urged them to be careful so they didn’t get hurt, and steered them to activities at which they could shine.
The problem is that perfect girls grow up to be women who are afraid to fail. It’s time to stop letting our fears drown out our dreams and narrow our world, along with our chance at happiness, she claims.
By choosing bravery over perfection, she argues, women can find the power to claim their voice, to leave behind what makes them unhappy, and go for the things they genuinely, passionately want.
She says: ‘Perfection may set us on a path that feels safe, but bravery leads us to the one we’re meant to follow.’
In Brave, Not Perfect, Reshma shares insights and practices that she says will help women override their perfect girl training and make bravery a lifelong habit.
By being brave, not perfect, she believes we can all become the authors of our ‘biggest, boldest, and most joyful life’.
Girls Who Code teaches a unique combination of programming fundamentals, web development and design, mobile development and robotics, with exposure to real-world technology companies.
Girls Who Code currently runs 57 programs nationwide in the telecommunications, finance, animation, and gaming sectors. But Saujani believes this is just the beginning.
1. Throw a (short) pity party
After her failed bid for Congress, Reshma admits she spent three days holed up in her apartment, eating badly and watching even worse television. Now, she says: ‘Looking back, I absolutely believe those days I spent wallowing in pity were every bit as essential for my rebound as all the other steps I took next. Allow yourself a finite amount of time to really mourn what you lost.
2. Celebrate your failure
Reshma says that in 2013 a new drug trial was going really well – until it failed. The devastated scientists broke down in tears – and then they went for drinks. She explains: ‘I know all too well how vitally important this kind of closure can be. Celebrating small accomplishments – even in the face of big failures – is what enables us to press on and hold on to hope that eventually, our efforts will result in a breakthrough success.’
3. Shake it off (literally)
After receiving some bad news, Reshma says the best way to shake off disappointment, shame or regret is to actually shake it off. She says: ‘Research has shown that physical activity after an emotional blow is key for promoting resilience. So get moving. Go for a run or a long walk, hit the gym, do yoga; even better, do it with friends. If exercise isn’t your jam, do anything that gets you out of your head and back into self-care.’ She suggests baking, reading an inspiring book or meditation or attending the cinema or a museum or concert.
4. Review, reassess, realign
Turn your lemons into lemonade. Ask yourself: What happened? Where, when, how did it happen? Who was involved? What are the consequences? What needs to be changed, repaired or put back on track? Write the answers down. Then, reassess and look at the situation through a different lens, perhaps from someone else’s perspective. Then, reframe the entire situation. Ask yourself broader questions, like how did things go right? While you didn’t achieve what you set out to, what did you learn or gain in its place?
5. Try again
Reshma says: ‘Everytime you screw up, you learn what not to do. Each time you fail, you get to try again. Ultimately, your failures give you your edge. They make you stronger, wiser, more empathetic, more valuable, more real. And when you stop demanding perfection from yourself, they become your personal bravery badges of honour. Wear them with pride, and then get back out there and do it all over again.’