Are girls raised to be perfect and boys courageous?

After having an epiphany during an encounter with a colleague, I realised it's better to be courageous than perfect.

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Recently I had a huge OMG moment. I saw a professional email with three spelling mistakes sent to a client! It happened to be written by a highly respected and experienced professional. I was in such shock that I even decided to discuss it with that individual. 

Maybe he didn’t notice it? Maybe he was tired or was going through something. None of my suspicions were confirmed as I asked him about it. He was actually surprised by my question, and casually looked at me saying “So what?  It’s just a spelling mistake. Who cares?” 

This made even me more curious about what was going on here. I strongly believe I could not allow myself to send an important email with spelling mistakes, and if that happened, it would really bother me. The internal OMG Drama would kick in. But why does my colleague have such an opposite view? 

Girls are raised to be perfect, boys – courageous

There are plenty of studies done which highlight differences between how men and women approach their careers. It’s become almost a cliché that if a woman reads a job advertisement and doesn’t meet all the criteria, she won’t apply, whereas a man will without too much hesitation. What a courageous move – many women would say! 

Although generalizing is always tricky, it’s still good to take a look at where it comes from. I believe it’s deeply rooted in the way we are groomed to meet social expectations. Even though the exact expectations for individuals differ in various cultures, gender role models have different infusions almost everywhere. 

Girls play with Barbie dolls, boys with cars, trucks or power tools. Baby girls wear fluffy pink dresses, while boys have blue shirts. We unconsciously raise our kids with certain expectations of what a boy or a girl needs to do or behave. Boys should be courageous, fearless and strong, whereas girls nurturing, soft and empathetic – kind of perfect. 

These gender images have been with us for so many years that questioning them often feels a bit weird and unnatural.  And it’s not easy for men, women or transgender people alike if they don’t fit into these socially acceptable frames. 

Perfect doesn’t exist, so leave it behind

I’ve adjusted my reality somewhat since that day. It’s okay to make mistakes because we are humans and not machines. Perfect exists only in the abstract and, even though you try to set your own standards, they won’t be the same for everyone or everywhere. So your definition of perfect simply doesn’t exist! In fact, striving for perfection can easily lead to unnecessary stress. You can avoid this by simply changing your mindset towards gender stereotypes.

Take a deep breath and let it go. What today feels very hard or impossible will be easier tomorrow. Better to be courageous than perfect!

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