Article author and psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson writes
How often have you found yourself avoiding challenges and playing it safe, sticking to goals you knew would be easy for you to reach? Are there things you decided long ago that you could never be good at? Skills you believed you would never possess? [...] Your belief that you are ‘stuck’ being exactly as you are has done more to determine the course of your life than you probably ever imagined. This would be fine if your abilities were innate and unchangeable. Only they’re not.
As a Bright Girl, a label I’ve had my entire academic life, I’ve set goals for myself that were simple, achievable and that could not fail. Rarely did I enter into ANYTHING that might hint at failure. While I might have worried and fretted and stressed about some things (college acceptance, that A in science class, a relationship) I never set goals for myself that were stretching my limits. Failure is not an option when you’re a Bright Girl.
Eventually I realized that living this way wasn’t getting me anywhere and it had wreaked havoc on my personal relationships. This wasn’t a big “lightbulb” moment of inspiration, rather a series of small moments that were unveiled by yoga. Just below the the physical practice of yoga is the emotional level. It’s here when, gradually, you start to ask yourself WHY. Why do I feel this way? Why do I talk to myself the way I do? Why do I react the way I do? Yoga teaches us to ask these questions without judgement. We ask, we acknowledge and we learn. There can be no failure when there is no judgement. A hard concept for the Bright Girl who excels at judging her every thought and action against the label of being a “Bright Girl”.
In my current job, I’ve taken on more responsibilities with statistics and reporting, something that challenges me daily in my abilities with MS Excel and math. Math and numbers in general are something I avoid like the plague (not an understatement). My self-talk in regards to my perceived lack of abilities with math is overwhelmingly negative. Even though I know this, and I am proving every day that I am better than I think I am, it’s a deep hole to start to dig out of.
Yoga got this Bright Girl to realize that I’m not hopeless at athletics – a firmly held belief until about two years ago. Gym was my most loathed class and I hated team sports due to a perceived lack of physical ability. Yoga made me feel strong and physically fit and I began to question the long held belief that I was crap at sports. I didn’t turn into an athletic prodigy, but I can learn to do things I previously thought impossible. In five days this Bright Girl, who barely survived gym class and never completed a mile run will run a 5K.
Whether or not we Bright Girls learn this way of thinking from our culture or if it’s something we develop on our own, we need to start questioning it. We are not who we think we are.
So, Bright Girls, what would you do today
if you knew you could not fail?