Monday, 3 October 2016

Why It's Time I Took A Risk.


Recently I've been wondering why I have yet to show my family and friends this blog. Why have I been hiding something that takes up a considerable amount of my time, and that I work (fairly) hard on? Surely I should be keen to get those extra views from people I know care about me rather than pretending it doesn't exist at all? But the truth is, I'm scared. I'm scared that they don't think it's any good, and that I've got it all wrong.

It reminded me of being in university, standing in a hall with the rest of my year presenting posters based on our dissertation projects. I knew the material inside out but still I was terrified, knowing that I had to speak to at least two Psychology lecturers about the experiment I'd spent the last six months on, and had to get their seal of approval. It didn't seem to matter to me that these lecturers didn't study this branch of Psychology, that they had no expert knowledge in the subject of the study. I was rehearsing the words in my head over and over, desperate to get every detail completely perfect - failure was not an option.

I stumbled across an interesting TED Talk a couple of months ago, that has really stuck with me. Reshma Saujani, an educational activist, was talking about how in our society girls have been taught to strive for perfection while boys have been taught to be brave and take risks. She mentioned how the first time she took a real risk was when she ran for Congress aged 33 years old, and I realised that I, at nearly 27 years old, am not that far behind her.

A point from the TED Talk that hit close to home was the mention of girls 'giving up' much faster than boys. Reshma talked about Carol Dweck, a psychologist who gave a group of intelligent children a test that was too hard for them. While the boys in the group saw it as a challenge, the girls tended to give up immediately - in fact the higher the IQ of the girl, the faster she was to do so. Now before we get our wires crossed, I'm not trying to imply I'm the next Albert Einstein, but I could really relate to that situation. In my 5th year of high school I had one bad test result, and I immediately dropped the class completely. Take the chance of failing one of my exams?! Absolutely not. The possibility that maybe I just needed to try harder and keep going didn't even register with me; clearly I couldn't do it so why bother wasting my time?

I still see that in myself now, in my late 20s. I cannot count the number of times I've said to my husband, "I can't do it!" when I've barely even tried. How many times have I said 'no thank you!' to joining in with an activity if I don't think I'll be any good at it? How many times I have I decided not to apply for an opportunity I really wanted because there's a possibility that I won't get it? How many times have I given up before I even really began?


The truth is that I'm petrified of getting it wrong. I don't want to look like I don't know what I'm doing - I don't want to look stupid or incompetent. I'd rather not try at all than get it wrong, and that's a really damaging way to live a life. It holds you back. It takes away the opportunities you could've had: Reshma also mentions a report that showed while men will happily apply for a job if they meet 60% of the requirements, women won't apply unless they meet 100% of them. Think about how many women have missed out on roles they'd excel in, just because they didn't think they were 'perfect'.

I attempted to learn to drive when I was 17, and I was terrible at it. My driving instructor ended up making me cry at one of the busiest roundabouts in Edinburgh, and I immediately gave up. It's been nearly 10 years and I've barely sat in a driver's seat since. My husband bought a car last week and I realised that I've let a decade of my life go by without doing something I wanted to, purely because I'm scared of getting it wrong. If I was scared of crashing into a wall and dying in a ball of fire that'd be one thing, but being scared of stalling at a traffic light? Come on now.

As Reshma says, it's time we stop teaching girls that perfection is all that matters. We need to teach them to be brave, to take risks, to persevere when it gets difficult (or even when it just 'doesn't come naturally'). We need to teach them that getting it wrong doesn't mean they have failed. And so I'm going to start with myself.

I've never really taken risks. Perhaps that's the fault of socialisation, perhaps it's my anxiety-addled brain, or maybe a mixture of the two. But I think it's about time I realised that being 'perfect' isn't the most important thing (Jesus, if it is I'm screwed, I literally couldn't be further away). What's important is taking a chance and accepting the inevitable imperfections. Yes, I'll get it wrong. Maybe I'll always get it slightly wrong, and I'll never quite achieve what I'd like. But at least I'll have taken a risk and been brave, and that is the only way I'll build a life I'm proud of.

What about you - do you take risks or do you worry about being perfect?

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1 comment

  1. This was such an inspiring post to read, thank you so so much for sharing! I will forever keep this in mind xo

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