How do I uncover their secret? You know, those people who“do” rather than simply “prepare”? Personally, precedence to boldness often resembles a recurring theme of studying, researching, contemplating – but the execution part – the “doing” – refuses to join the party. Studies find the “courageous ingredient,” as it were, differs not only among personalities, but sometimes even gender. As women, we ruminate on every decision. Think arbitrary parent-hood pre-requisites: *knowledge attainment equivalent to that of a graduate degree in developmental psychology; *a college fund, for the baby, totaling at least $10,000; *body condition of a Pure Barre instructor (because once prego, your heart rate can’t exceed more than 130 bpm); *a self-planted, all-organic garden for future pureed vegetables in lieu of store-bought baby food; *bilingual acquisition; and *a prepared answer for any and all questions the future child could possibly want to know (e.g., how does lightening happen? where do babies come from? why are parrots the only speaking birds?) – “then and only then will we be ready to start mixing the batter to bake a bun in the oven!” Absurd, no? (p.s. Now don’t mis-understand, preparation benefits, but it shouldn’t be an anesthetic to life.)
Okay, now pause your Adele Spotify channel (Hello has me listening to the veteran album tunes: Daydreamer & Chasing Pavements – mmm, so good) for a second and think this through with me.
Two instructions: 1) take yourself back to any class your junior year in high school (social science or trigonometry for me) and 2) recall the steadfast devotion you employed to achieve the golden star, the A+, the teacher’s recommendation for you to enter the next science fair, the five points of extra credit, pushing you over the 100% limit. An honest assessment (for me anyways), though, reveals maybe we did not necessarily love these subjects, we loved this way of learning.
‘If life were one long grade school, women would be the undisputed rulers of the world.’
Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor and the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, exposes this ugly impediment to courage and procrastination initiator.
We miss out on the process of *the doing* and *the learning* performing in reciprocal harmony. We navigate school by acquiring information. Often, we translate this approach to life: we sit back and try to learn, learn, learn and end up not actually living life. (Side thought: Is this the factor behind the female-favored task of list making? Sometimes I think I take more pride in my list itself than the actual list-doing.)
We adopt the same method of learning as we were taught in school and try to apply it to real life, when life’s reality requires risk and unlearning and mistakes…
When it comes to risk, oftentimes we think learning and doing should be separated and operate independently.
“…And yet the result is that many girls learn to avoid taking risks and making mistakes. This is to their detriment: many psychologists now believe that risk taking, failure, and perseverance are essential to confidence-building. … What a vicious circle: girls lose confidence, so they quit competing, thereby depriving themselves of one of the best ways to regain it. They leave school crammed full of interesting historical facts and elegant Spanish subjunctives, proud of their ability to study hard and get the best grades, and determined to please. But somewhere between the classroom and the cubicle, the rules change, and they don’t realize it.” – Atlantic Magazine’s Article
Why do we fear failure more than our male counterparts? Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain, offers a theory for the socially intuition girls from an early age how girls are more socially intuitive than boys, “Because their brains did not undergo a testosterone marination in utero and their communication and emotion centers were left intact, girls also arrive in the world better at reading faces and hearing emotional vocal tones.” Being adept at emotional language means girls also tend to be more concerned with appearances and afraid of mistakes. Aside from any gender stereotypes (social psychology readily acknowledges this isn’t the case for every male and female), the point is we are kidding ourselves if we think standing still is less a risk than taking a step forward. Is perfection the key to life’s door? Is failure fatal? Truth is, even without our acknowledgement, we will continue living and experiencing failures. Be aware – life has begun and we are living it. We need to start understanding waiting for perfection to be a failure ending of itself.
Does this mean life (“the doing”) starts after school, then? Or maybe after the “i do’s” and the double pink lines? Naturally, but mostly culturally driven, we act as social surveyors of the future. Developmental milestones attribute to our understanding of being a “grown-up.” Electric bills and tuning into Charlie Rose guarantee rite of passage way into adulthood, along with the physical ability-tolerance to drink copious amounts of coffee, right?
This is the suffrage of perfectionism.
We see here, in God’s word, success & confidence defined in contrast from the values of the world. God calls us to excellence – “Work not only cares for creation, but also directs and structures it. In this Reformed view, the purpose of work is to create a culture that honors God and enables people to thrive. … Excellence, integrity, discipline, creativity, and passion in the workplace can help others and even be considered acts of worship – not just self-interest.” – Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor – but two responses are inevitable without the transformative effects of the Gospel.
1) We will invariably live according to the world’s system of self-oriented values if we do not follow Christ’s humility and power, evidenced by the cross. 2) We are human and dependent on our Creator. Exposure of my inability will denote a trust in something far greater than myself. Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith eradicates the self-preservational order we are bent towards, freeing us from the paralyzing effects from fear of failure because He lived the perfect life we could never live.
Interestingly enough, a synonym for risk is opportunity. Risks do not have to be unnecessary or foolish (read: that over-the-top-involved, three day long marinated, Italian delectable fare), but if fear of mistakes serves as your motivation for fortitude in life, you are sure to be disillusioned.
Take this blog, for instance. I have done just as much rumination as a ’94 Ford Escort takes to warm up it’s engine in the glacial temperatures experienced on Cuba Lake in the northern portion of New York State.
It’s taxing, really. So, here it goes. I am starting even when I do not feel 100% prepared. I am posting before I have become an expert. (even as I write that out, it sounds so backwards, no?) I will say no to “I haven’t prepared enough or thought about it enough.” I will say no to “this is fake confidence, you really aren’t a writer.” While I’m not advocating for everyone to hop on a self-esteem campaign necessarily, failure’s possibility of success should not paralyze us.