Why are we afraid to move forward? A big reason is the terrifying idea of “perfect or nothing”. In her TED talk, Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, talks about how girls are conditioned to be “perfect or nothing” from a young age. Because of traditional gender roles, young boys get a chance to be wild, raucous, experimental, risky, dangerous, and brave. Girls who take up this attitude have traditionally been labeled as “tomboys”, which is often seen as a derogatory term.
While teaching coding, Reshma discovered that boys in her classroom would call her over for help. “I’m stuck,” they would say, pointing to a unfinished code on their screen. Girls, on the other hand, would ask for help with a blank screen. Reshma quickly learned to walk over and press CTRL-Z (undo) a few times – code would begin to appear. The girls tried, just like the boys. But they believed they had to present perfection or nothing. If their code didn’t fully work, they would simply delete it.
It’s sad that we teach this kind of perfection to girls. Why not teach them to be wild, raucous, experimental, risky, dangerous, and brave? For that matter, why not teach everyone? It’s important not to fail in skydiving, or while performing an open heart surgery. But in most areas of life, the best learning comes through failure.
The “perfect or nothing” mentality gets in the way of learning, growing, and doing work that is important to us. Acknowledge the fear that your work isn’t perfect. Push through it, and do the work anyway.
Our culture is addicted to being “perfect”. In a world of grades (aim for 100%!), carefully scheduled lives (arrive at 3pm sharp!) and supermodels (you have to look just like that!), it’s easy to forget that we are human. Being human means we are not perfect. We’re dynamic, interesting, ever-changing. We’re unique and relate-able. We’re fun and curious. We don’t measure up because we don’t fit into measurements at all. Embrace your humanity.
Be alive. Move forward. Don’t worry about perfection. You’re not perfect. You’re better than that.