Incredible women are not hard to find. Look left and there’s a single-mom single-handedly running her own business that pays the bills and buys her kids rainboots. Look right and there’s an oncological diagnostician bringing both empathy and ferocious science to her patients (and she does applique on the side!).
But for every moment we recognize the strengths in women around us, we’re tested: will we measure our failures against their successes? And frustratingly, the truth is, so often, we will.
Which is where one of our favorite thinkers on the topic of women and life, Liz Gilbert, comes in.
Can we draft a joint resolution to drop the crazy-making expectation that we must all be perfect friends and perfect mothers and perfect workers and perfect lovers with perfect bodies who dedicate ourselves to charity and grow our own organic vegetables, at the same time that we run corporations and stand on our heads while playing the guitar with our feet?
No, seriously — please.
Because it breaks my heart to know that so many amazing women are waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning and abusing themselves for not having gone to art school, or for not having learned to speak French, or for not having organized the neighborhood scavenger hunt. I fear that — if we continue this mad quest for perfection — we will all end up as stressed-out and jumpy as those stray cats who live in dumpsters behind Chinese restaurants, forever scavenging for scraps of survival while pulling out their own hair in hypervigilant anxiety.
For every moment you’re comparing yourself to someone, there’s another woman out there comparing herself to you. And the expectation that we place on ourselves to be perfect isn’t just crazy-making – it’s wrong.
We will all fail at some things. We will not always live up to what we believe we are capable of. And two good things will come of this. First, we’ll learn that we can stand up again, that we are not bad. And second, we’ll learn about ourselves: what we want, what we love, what our boundaries are, and how to take care of ourselves in the best way possible.
Admittedly, Liz Gilbert has influenced our way of thinking. She says:
Let’s just anticipate that we (all of us) will disappoint ourselves somehow. Go ahead and let it happen. Let somebody else be a better mother than you for one afternoon. Let somebody else go to art school. Let somebody else have a happy marriage, while you foolishly pick the wrong guy. (Hell, I’ve done it; it’s survivable.) While you’re at it, take the wrong job. Move to the wrong city. Lose your temper in front of the boss, quit training for that marathon, wolf down a truckload of cupcakes the day after you start your diet. Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted — by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on. Future generations will thank you — trust me — for showing the way, for beating brave new footpaths out of wonky old mistakes.
Fall flat on your face if you must, but please, for the sake of us all, do not stop.
We love this idea – that the more we not only accept our failures, but own them and embrace them, the more we are not only finding our groove, but making it possible for all women, in the present and in the future, to do the same.
There’s something to be said for the idea of failing spectacularly in your own mind, it may actually open the gateway for more love, self-love, and pleasure (our favorite!). When we accept ourselves as we are, imperfectly perfect, we are making room not for more failure, but for more success.
Dear ladies, let’s celebrate everything that makes us awesome. Share one thing (at least!) in the comments that speaks to your personal awesomeness. We’ll start.