Loving the Risk of Failure
This blog was written by Gabby Abrego. Gabby is a vital part of the Curriculum Team at Launch gURLs.
Failure is a scary word. Just thinking about failing at a short-term goal, a passion project, or even a home-cooked meal for loved ones is enough to make your heart drop. Girls, in particular, tend to feel the burden of failure harder due to universal cultural and societal pressures. If a girl does poorly on a math test, or cannot quickly climb the rope in gym class, she runs the risk of the dreadful “Girls are just bad at math” or “Girls just aren’t as strong as boys.” Even as the world starts to acknowledge that girls are smart at STEM and just as strong as boys, the stereotypes that have historically held girls back have proven hard to break and will leave a mark on even the most confident young women. Confronting risk is the first and most difficult step that girls have to make when stepping outside of these pressures, stereotypes, or expectations. And while risk and failure can be directly connected, why do they both have to be feared and avoided? And why is failure almost always assumed to be the result of risk? How can we encourage girls to not just take more risks but actually love taking risks and look forward to the personal growth that will come from it?
Instead of putting forward a story of some major life-changing decision I made and how I was able to successfully overcome that intense challenge – I instead want to acknowledge the people that took a risk on me. My mother let me go away to college. A scholarship program gave me a chance to study abroad and an organization that accepted me with little experience, but a lot of passion. They all took a risk on me, a young, brown woman. They saw potential in me and gave me the opportunity to explore, make mistakes, and thrive. I was able to understand the positive power of risk and failure because they did not let stereotypes inform their expectations of who I am and what I am capable of achieving in the world.
Let’s help girls by first, by giving them that same “green light” to follow their ambition. We have to trust that they will be safe and know that they will do great things. Let’s also take the extreme negativity out of risk and failure. Failure is defined as “a lack of success”, but do we truly ever experience a full lack of success? Even if a goal wasn’t fully realized to our expectations, there is always success in the experience, the process and the attempt. If we show girls that something “risky” can be seen as a new way to flex your curiosity and that “failure” is just a small step in the path of self-discovery, we can give them a chance to reach their fullest potential. As a global community, we can let go of our fear of girls failing – and let them take the greatest risk – leading our future.