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Brave, Not Perfect

Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder

By Reshma Saujani
10-minute read
Audio available
Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder by Reshma Saujani

Brave, Not Perfect (2019) opens up a new world to those women socialized from a young age to strive for perfection and please everyone around them. Perfection doesn’t always help you get ahead in the modern world – but bravery does. By embracing the power of bravery, women can emancipate themselves from the servitude of perfectionism, embrace the power of failure and achieve their dreams.

  • Women suffering under the weight of socially enforced perfectionism
  • Female entrepreneurs trying to get their business on the right track
  • Men who want to better learn how society conditions women

Reshma Saujani is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization seeking to close the gender gap in the world of tech. As of 2018, the organization has reached over 50,000 women and girls all over the United States. Saujani came into national prominence after giving a 2016 TED talk on the power of bravery, which went viral with over three million views. 

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Brave, Not Perfect

Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder

By Reshma Saujani
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder by Reshma Saujani
Synopsis

Brave, Not Perfect (2019) opens up a new world to those women socialized from a young age to strive for perfection and please everyone around them. Perfection doesn’t always help you get ahead in the modern world – but bravery does. By embracing the power of bravery, women can emancipate themselves from the servitude of perfectionism, embrace the power of failure and achieve their dreams.

Key idea 1 of 6

Instead of being taught to be brave and take risks, girls are groomed to please others and strive for perfection.

Meet Erica. She’s a middle-aged, successful woman who is always extremely friendly, helpful and greets everyone with a dazzling smile. Working from dawn until dusk to impress clients and colleagues doesn’t stop her from constantly looking fresh and ready to go. 

Indeed, no matter the situation, Erica is always projecting perfectionism onto the world around her and trying to please everyone she comes across.

But deep down, Erica wishes she could act differently. In fact, sometimes, she wishes she was brave enough to tell her biggest client that she thinks his business strategies are terrible. Sadly, the inherent drive that so many women feel to please everyone around them and strive towards perfection keeps her locked in a life that she doesn’t want to live.

Erica is a good friend of the author. And, like the author, she’s a victim of a society where women are taught to be afraid of risk, of being bold and choosing the lives they want to lead – independently of what others think. Instead of being brave, young girls are taught how to be perfect for the sake of pleasing those around them. The opposite is true of young boys, who are encouraged to explore, fail and take risks.

The categorization of girls as agreeable people-pleasers starts as soon as they’re born. One study that placed babies without recognizable genders in neutral clothes showed that when they were upset, adults were more likely to think they were boys. But when they were happy, most adults assumed the infants were girls.

And this expectation of girls quickly develops into reality. 

Consider a University of California study involving a simple lemonade stand. The catch? Instead of adding sugar, the researchers added salt, making the beverage less than satisfying. After handing them out to groups of boys and girls, the results of the social conditioning girls go through became clear: boys immediately conveyed how disgusting it tasted, whereas girls politely sipped it.

Only after the researchers pressed the girls on why they kept drinking did the truth come out – the girls said they didn’t want the researchers to feel bad.

This is the society we live in – where boys are bred to be brave, and girls to please via an endless drive toward perfection.

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