Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani empowers women to embrace their imperfections and find their bravery. This extract, in celebration of the paperback release, discusses why it is important to be brave:
Why Be Brave?
If you think about it, pretty much everything worth doing in life requires bravery. Bravery is why we try that twentieth cartwheel that we triumphantly nail after falling nineteen times. It’s what sends us off to college or far from home where we don’t know anyone, what encourages us to follow a passion into our first job. Bravery enables us to start a business, change careers, or ask for the salary we deserve. It allows us to be vulnerable enough to ask for help and helps us to muster the strength to forgive someone who hurt us. It inspires us to be generous and support other women without fearing that it diminishes us. As Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.”
Bravery makes falling in love possible. It takes courage to allow someone to see the real you, flaws and all, and to accept someone else who is equally imperfect. As Esther Perel told me, bravery allows us to be vulnerable and reciprocal, which in turn makes relationships robust. “People sometimes do the wrong things or hurt each other’s feelings… being able to speak up about it or say ‘I f*cked up, I’m sorry’ takes bravery,” she says. “Bravery is the ability to see yourself as flawed and own it without plunging instantly into shame. It’s also the ability to experience joy for the great things that happen to the other person, even if they have nothing to do with you.”
Bravery transforms all our relationships from glossy and shellacked to honest, raw, and real. How often are we honest – truly honest – with our friends? Only by building your bravery muscles, does the veneer get melted and true heart-to-heart connections are forged. I have a crew of seven girlfriends from law school. Life got busy and we see each other now only once or twice a year, but when we do, it’s like no time has passed. We talk about the deeper stuff that’s going on – the miscarriages, the bumps in our marriages, the fears we carry that no one else ever sees. It takes courage to open up like that to other human beings, but it’s such a privilege to have this kind of safe space to be fully open and real.
Bravery makes us better parents. When we let go of the unrealistic expectations for ourselves, we then naturally ease up on our kids. When we stop obsessing about our kids’ grades or college essays, we help them see the joy in learning. We show them by example how to pursue excellence without making it about perfection, and that the world won’t end if they screw up or fail. It’s brave to allow your kid to be exactly who they are and do what they love, even if you don’t agree with their choices. They’re happier and healthier for it, though, and so are you.
This may sound a little cheesy, but bravery helps us turn our dreams into reality. I don’t care if your dream is to be in the C-suite, quit your job and start a business, be a hip-hop dancer, come out to your family, work at an animal sanctuary, run a marathon, go back to school, publish a novel, get married and have children, or make your mark on the world through activism – bravery will help get you from here to there.
Forget cultivating the perfectly polished exterior; that’s just a flimsy façade that can come toppling down at any minute. When we build our bravery muscles, we’re safe for real because we know we can handle whatever comes our way. Bravery doesn’t guarantee that everything will work out, just that we’ll be okay if it doesn’t. No matter what demons we face, bravery allows us to stand strong and keep going. Bravery – not perfection – is the only true armor there is.
Bravery keeps us afloat when we might otherwise sink. As we all know, sh*t happens in life that we can’t control. We lose jobs, face health crises, lose loved ones – these are hard realities we can’t avoid. When the really hard times hit, though, they are far easier to weather when our bravery muscles are strong. I’m not suggesting that the bravery challenges we face won’t sometimes feel cruel, unfair, and disheartening. But I am saying that we can acknowledge these feelings and (here’s the brave part) persevere anyway.
Most of all, bravery sets us free. It gives us the power to claim our voice, and to leave behind what makes us unhappy and go for what sparks in our souls. It allows us to see that our gloriously messy, flawed, real selves are in fact the true definition of perfection.