Re­brand­ing Fail­ure

It’s time we find the courage to be im­per­fect.

Canadian Living - - LIFE & COMMUNITY | SERENTIY NOW - LIZA FIN­LAY IS A REG­IS­TERED PSY­CHOTHER­A­PIST AND AU­THOR OF LOST & FOUND: THE SPIR­I­TUAL JOUR­NEY OF WOMEN AT MIDLIFE. TEXT LIZA FIN­LAY IL­LUS­TRA­TION WENTING LI

We have an epi­demic on our hands. Wo­mankind is plagued by the not-good-enough bug. It eats away at our self-worth by mak­ing us be­lieve we should be more per­fect than we are, as per­fect as we per­ceive oth­ers to be. And the in­sid­i­ous byprod­uct of this par­tic­u­lar per­fec­tion­seek­ing bug is com­plete paral­y­sis. When we avoid im­per­fec­tion, we avoid risk—the risk of tak­ing a shot, the risk of putting our­selves out there, the risk of mak­ing a mis­take, the risk of be­ing seen as any­thing less than ideal.

Let me be blunt. The ca­su­alty of per­fec­tion­seek­ing is courage. And that’s a big prob­lem— for us and for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

A good chunk of my day is spent talk­ing to young girls about per­fec­tion. They stalk so­cial me­dia sites, com­par­ing their own “piti­ful ex­is­tences” to the “per­fect” world they see on their ve-inch screens. ow, I’m not against so­cial me­dia, but when teens score their self-worth based on “likes,” I’ve got an is­sue with that, es­pe­cially when what earns those likes is what I call phan­tom per­fec­tion—an up-lit, highly edited sliver of life that’s more re­al­ity show than re­al­ity. And more of­ten than I’d like, that re­al­ity show be­comes a drama and even a tragedy.

Teen girls aren’t alone in this un­healthy habit of com­par­ing, well, you name it: bod­ies, boyfriends, so­cial suc­cesses. or are they uni ue in weigh­ing their worth on a scale that has only two set­tings: zero and per­fect. Based on that kind of mea­sure, we’re doomed to fail be­cause, com­pared to the shiny im­age of oth­ers we hold in our heads, we al­ways come up lack­ing. We rack up our fail­ings like they’re Air Miles, and where we land is com­plete dis­cour­age­ment.

Reshma Sau­jani, founder of the Amer­i­can non­pro t or­ga­ni­za­tion irls Who ode, ded­i­cated to clos­ing the gen­der gap in tech­nol­ogy, no­ticed that in cod­ing classes, girls who ran up against a road­block would hit the delete but­ton and uit—a blank screen was bet­ter than an im­per­fect prod­uct. Sau­jani points out that when boys make a mis­take, they be­lieve some­thing is wrong with their code; but when girls make an er­ror, they be­lieve some­thing is wrong with them. This faulty think­ing is con­sis­tent with what a decade of re­search on shame has re­vealed. Shame is a lit­tle voice that says, “When I get some­thing wrong, it’s be­cause I’m wrong. When my prod­uct is de­fec­tive, it’s be­cause I’m de­fec­tive.”

Fear of fail­ure is a symp­tom of this faulty think­ing. So I’m on a mis­sion to re­brand the word “fail­ure” and turn it into some­thing to be proud of. Let’s think of fail­ures as suc­cess starters, mis­takes as merit badges and re­grets as life lessons (I’m a life­long learner!). This re­framed think­ing is the an­ti­dote to this epi­demic of un­wor­thi­ness. And it’s my per­sonal uest. are to join me

We rack up our fail­ings like they’re Air Miles, and where we land is com­plete dis­cour­age­ment.

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