July 17, 2018
“Why do we teach boys to be brave and girls to be perfect?”
This question was posed by Reshma Saujani during her Ted Talk where she discussed her observation that girls feel immense pressure to be perfect at what they do, and anything less is thought to be unacceptable.
It is not often that I come across a video that resonates with me to my core. But as Saujani continued her Talk, a realization came to me. I, Audra Weigand, used to be a perfection-seeking girl.
Anyone from my high school graduating class would tell you that I had a reputation for being an over-achiever, straight A student and a stellar student athlete. What many people didn’t know was that in my pursuit of perfection, I found myself trapped in a bubble of who I thought I needed to be and what I thought people expected of me.
It wasn’t until college rolled around that I started to realize the downsides of my perfectionistic tendencies. I spent an average of eight hours a day in the library studying. I worked long hours at my two on-campus jobs. I was constantly thinking about what was left on my to-do lists. And most weeks I barely had a spare minute to think about eating or getting ample sleep.
I was overstressed, overbooked and overworked. As a consequence, I was missing out. There were opportunities I could have exceeded at, if I allowed myself to be brave and push my perfectionistic tendencies aside.
As you can probably imagine, all of this stress and internal pressure cumulated into my diagnosis of having an anxiety disorder. Following my therapy, I realized for the first time in my life that I was not perfect and I never would be.
This news was hard to handle. I wasn’t used to failure. I wasn’t used to being uncomfortable. I wasn’t ready to accept that I couldn’t keep up the perfection façade for my entire life.
But this is where the bravery comes in.
I accepted my flaws. I accepted that things would not always be perfect. I realized that allowing myself to be vulnerable and truthful about my hardships were not a sign of weakness.
So what did I do about it? Well, I stopped working at one of my on-campus jobs because it wasn’t making me happy, I spent less time doing homework and took more time to re-connect with my friends. And I allowed myself to get grades that were less than an A. I gave myself permission to take a break.
After this period of rejuvenation, I felt ready to be brave. I accepted a promotion with a student run-communications agency at the University of Minnesota. My new role with the organization pushed me outside of my comfort zone, as I didn’t have a background in marketing or PR. In fact, I am majoring in sociology and political science and I have plans to work with non-profits after graduation.
Which brings me to where I am now, a soon to be senior at the University of Minnesota working at Fast Horse as a summer intern and doing things I never thought I would be able to do. I am learning many transferable skills that I hope to use in the future to improve societal problems and inequalities.
Without making the decision to be brave, none of this would have happened. I wouldn’t have opened myself up to failure and wouldn’t have allowed myself to succeed.
As a woman and a future sociologist, I know there is a strong societal pressure for women to be perfect and appear like they have everything figured out. While I still have my bad days, I know that by choosing to be brave and imperfect, I am allowing myself to have lasting happiness, success and fulfillment. The workplace needs women who are willing to take risks, make mistakes and go beyond their area of expertise.
So, to other female-identifying individuals, I encourage you to do something that excites you and pushes you to the edge of your comfort zone. Who knows? Being brave may be one of the best decisions you ever make.