Brave Not Perfect – It’s Okay To Fail

If you haven’t read Reshma Saujani’s book, ‘Brave Not Perfect’, I highly recommend it. Reshma caught my attention at a conference last summer where she was the Key Note Speaker. I hadn’t previously seen her work but the title of her book was intriguing.

“TEACH GIRLS BRAVERY, NOT PERFECTION” she opened, “we are teaching our girls to be perfect and our boys to be brave.” As a mother of two young daughters and a having a ‘perfectionist’ mentality myself, her message shook my core. “The desire to be perfect holds us back in so many ways. We don’t speak up for ourselves, as we know deep down we should, because we don’t want to seem as pushy, bitchy, or straight up, unlikeable. When we do speak up, many of us agonize and overthink how to express ourselves, trying to hit just the right note of assertiveness with out seeming too ‘bossy’ or aggressive. We obsessively analyze, consider, discuss, and weigh every angle before making a decision, no matter how small. And if we do, heaven forbid, make a mistake, we feel as though our world is falling apart.”

This past weekend, Shelby Babcock and I held our inaugural ‘The Battery: Pitching and Catching Camp”. Shelby and I intentionally built in a mental skills focus and set up a drill that would put the athletes in a pressure situation to start applying the mental skills tools they had just learned. The drill was to record pop times for the catchers. The catchers rotated through their turns one at a time with a pitcher throwing to them. Here is where the pressure situation came into play…they had an audience. The rest of the campers and the parents in attendance were watching and cheering them on. You could feel the dynamic change for the pitcher and catcher on stage… body language changed, they tightened up, got quiet and sunk into a ‘please don’t mess up’ stage of desperation. 

I could see the mindset of these athletes transition from a cool, calm and loose nature to a look of panic and every muscle in their body tightened up. So what happened? A Harvard Business Review outlined research conducted from a Hewlett Packard internal report that shows women won’t apply for a job unless they meet 100% of the listed qualifications. However, the study showed men will apply if they meet 60% of the qualifications! What gives?! “Men are confident about their abilities at 60%, but women don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list.” The advice from HBR – “Women need to have more confidence in themselves”.

This would be easy if whoever holds the confidence on/off switch would show us where it is! How do women and young athletes find confidence? It is built and developed…from the ground up through intentional mental skills work on positive affirmations, learning how to control thoughts and wait for it….. learning how to fail! I see catchers who will throw a 1.8 pop time in practice and lessons but get in a game and tighten up and guide the ball to the bases in fear of making an error. This is a mentality shift, they/ we don’t want to make an error….we don’t want to fail…because dear Lord, what will every one say and think?! Welcome to the brain of a female.

Coaches, parents – Teach your daughters it’s okay to fail! I tell my catchers all of the time, I don’t care if you over throw the ball to centerfield on a steal throw, but you better put everything you have into the approach and throw! When we learn how to fail, we learn it’s really not that bad AND GUESS WHAT…we learn from that experience. We learn what adjustments need to be made on the next throw and we learn it’s really wasn’t that bad! Let’s get it the next time! 

Teach our young female athletes it’s okay to make and fail, and do so in a manner where they feel safe to put themselves on that stage and won’t be stoned when it happens. Encourage them get dirty, let them fall off of the monkey bars, and let them throw the ball over the backstop…then teach them how to adjust and fail FORWARD and teach them to be BRAVE not perfect!

#BuildConfidence #MentalSkills #TeachBravery #FemaleAthletes #BraveNotPerfect