Brave, Not Perfect

Recently I heard a Rise podcast episode with Reshema Sujani, CEO and founder of Girls Who Code and author of Brave, Not Perfect.

Listening to the interview, I got curious about her book. In a lot of ways, there are many times in the last decade that I haven’t felt very brave. If anything, I’ve thought I’ve made very careful steps, opting for safety rather than taking risks whether that was in my career or personal life. It ranges from small things to big decisions. I think we all have moments we weigh out the consequences to see if the choice is right for us and sometimes safe is best and sometimes, we should just go for it.

I love wearing this shirt when I feel like I need to ward off any bad juju, be a little braver. No negativity here, folks! Only positive vibes for positive lives!

I love wearing this shirt when I feel like I need to ward off any bad juju, be a little braver. No negativity here, folks! Only positive vibes for positive lives!

I checked out the audio book and listened to it every chance I got hoping I would hear the right things to maybe help me work through moments of self-doubt. While I immediately resonated with the things she said in the opening, I realized that perhaps my bravery has been there all along, just clouded with adult responsibility. For example, I loved dancing as a kid. I mean loved it. Growing up my mother helped with costumes at the local theater productions in the summer and I would go up there with her. I’d study the shows, learn the dances, talk to all the performers, put on shows for my family. To me, it was a whole exciting world I wanted to be a part of any chance I got. When it came my time to try my hand at theater, I wasn’t afraid to go to auditions as a kid. Nervous, sure, but my parents were so encouraging to go and have fun, I didn’t get panicked. I won scholarships at dance conventions for just being that happy kid, full out, no holds barred. There’s a story about leading the waitresses through the Macarena at Babes Chicken House when I was 10 because they didn’t know it and I had that dance down pat. Why wouldn’t I teach these ladies how it’s done?

There are many times I’ve embraced bravery without thinking about it: taking myself to my senior homecoming sans a date, asking that cute guy out for coffee only to be shot down, emailing a stranger for job opportunities that actually pan out, and traveling for auditions and navigating new cities all by myself. I’m not a total and complete scaredy-cat but I realized in listening to Reshema’s book, I’m actually plenty brave enough. The problem is when I let self-doubt and fear of disappointment rule out.

Now, neither of those two things are new to me—I’m well aware of these traits and have been trying to work on those for the last couple years. Heck, we all have self-doubt now and again!

“Should I go for this job” or

“Is this outfit too bold?” or

“What happens if I follow this dream?”

Questions like that are usually followed by answer such as:

“You’re not fully qualified for the gig,” or

“That’s not your style so it’s totally out of character” or

“You could fail, lose everything and people will judge you for it.”

What really makes people brave, I think, is when we work through the answers. Saying, “stuff it all! I’m doing it anyway,” doesn’t always jive for the careful thinker, especially if they have that giant pull to please others, not disappoint or care about another’s opinion. Yeah, try as you might, Fearless Ones, there are folks (like me!) who just can’t tear that part of themselves away. Instead we work have to work through it constantly.

Playing the “What If” game, working through each scenario, understanding why you feel the way you do and rationally working through each step can help ease that anxious feeling that a decision could prove to be wrong. And if it is, at the end of the day, you know you’ll be okay because nine times out of ten, that’s usually what happens when you work through it all. You end up realizing you’ll be okay, that you can pivot after trying, and that other options will present themselves when you relax and open your mind.

So, what exactly did I get from Brave, Not Perfect? Well, a lot actually! These key points were my favorites and I think good reminders for anyone to hang on to:

  1. You can’t be brave if you’re tired. Take care of yourself, eat well, move your body, and get good sleep! Make your health a priority or else you won’t have the strength and stamina to get through the unknown challenges and sometimes scary opportunities.

  2. Ask if it’s your drama talking or wisdom? Are you letting fear and dramatics lead you to an answer or are you rationally working through the problem, really seeing all possibilities? Is the experience of failure leading the conversation or actual know-how?

    *I love this one! No drama-llama, please!

  3. Hone the power of “yet”! I’m not _____ yet. I haven’t reached this goal yet. It turns everything from “not possible” to “possible” with time and effort.

  4.  What advice would you give someone else if faced with a hard choice? I can pump up anyone, my husband, students, friends, family—I believe in them so, so much! Myself? I can have one or two reasons and give up, but if I were talking to someone else, no way would I let them thrown in the towel. So why would not give myself the same sage advice to keep trying or go

  5.  “Change what we think and believe by changing what we do.” (Dr. Meredith Grossman)

    Turning the script around is hard, but following up the change with action helps make us believe in the change more. So simple and so effective but we have to make a conscious decision each time we adjust.

  6.  Ask yourself what matters more to you in life. Decide what your priorities are and make your decisions based on what brings you closer to those things.

  7.  Just ask and then stop talking. This is a good reminder to put the question out there to someone and wait for their response. Don’t fill with fall back (“If you can’t meet,” “if you need more time, “I might not be fully qualified”). Just ask and wait.

  8. Speak up when you know you should. If that voice tells you to, but the fear gets in the way, just speak up. Do it for the things you believe in, what you think needs to be addressed, the introduction that you know might make a difference. Just say something. And by the way, you can be confident and firm without being rude. There actually is a difference.

  9.  “I’d rather be caught trying than not at all.” (Hillary Clinton)

    No matter where you stand on the person quoted, the sentiment is what I think is most important. No one will fault someone who tried because, hey! At least they tried! They gave an effort! What did you do? Even if it doesn’t pan out, you tried and at the end of the day, or at your 80th birthday, wouldn’t you have liked to say that you tried, made an effort, lived fully without ever wishing to have missed an opportunity to try.

Maybe you’re not a perfectionist either, maybe you’re not in need of upping your bravery game, but if you’re just needing to work through moments of self-doubt, hopefully these points help you out. Of course, the book Brave, Not Perfect is always there to elaborate even more on the topic!