Why Women Need to Stop Being Perfect and Start Being Brave

This article was originally published here February 6, 2019

Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, is working to close the gender gap in technology with her non-profit. The bestselling author is out with a new book, “Brave, Not Perfect,” inspired by her popular TED Talk in which calls for a new model for raising girls — not to be perfect but to be brave, encouraging them to fear less, fail more and live more boldly. Saujani shares her personal journey abandoning perfection and rewiring herself to be brave.  Here, Saujani shares how she challenged herself to fail and how she works be brave every day.

My whole life people have thought of me as ambitious. From a young age, I was the perfect immigrant daughter: straight A’s, onto Harvard and Yale, and then right into a corporate law job in New York City. From the outside, it looked like I had it all together. I was exactly the kind of woman you would call a “go-getter.”

But at age 33 I realized something that changed my life: being a go-getter doesn’t mean that you are gutsy. I had the “perfect” life, but I was miserable in it. Deep down, my dream — my true passion — was to give back to this country through public service. And no matter how many gold stars or fancy degrees I had racked up, the reality is that I wasn’t doing it.

So finally, on the brink of depression, I decided to do something gutsy. I quit my job and ran for U.S. Congress, the first Indian-American woman in the country ever to do so. I poured my heart into the campaign for 10 months, and I lost…miserably. But I lived to talk about it. Did the failure hurt? Yes! But for the first time in my life, I knew what bravery felt like, and I fell in love.

I believe that one brave act opens the door to so many others. After losing that election, I went on to found Girls Who Code, which is closing the gender gap in computer science and technology. That’s right: I founded a non-profit to teach girls coding, with no background myself in technology. The perfectionist in me would never have dreamed of doing something so far outside my comfort zone.

But bravery is like a muscle: when you work it, it grows. When you neglect it, it atrophies. It’s all too easy for us to fall off the wagon and slip back into our perfectionist instincts. Bravery just isn’t a “one and done” — we have to make it a practice, just like meditation.

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