Browse all

Girlfailure, or the abandonment of perfectionism

Could embracing inevitable failures be the key to success?

Girlfailure, or the abandonment of perfectionism Could embracing inevitable failures be the key to success?

Sometimes, to fall asleep or simply relax, my boyfriend watches beautifully narrated videos on the restoration of paintings, furniture, and antique artworks. Essentially ASMR, but without the sounds of chewing. A few nights ago, during yet another antique portrait being touched up with transparent paint strokes or cleaned with cotton swabs soaked in who-knows-what chemical, the man in the video casually said, "This technique leads to a result that is compromised. Can we conceive the product of a compromise as a success, rather than a partial failure? Semantically it's true, compromise leads to a compromised result or product. In this paradigm, the product is worse than it was before the compromise was made and is therefore a failure. Using this criterion, however, everything is a failure. Perhaps, then, it is necessary to create different criteria on which to base our judgment on compromise. Achieving 100% of the desired result can no longer be the only way to succeed; it's too narrow and limiting. Perhaps, the magic of compromise is that it shows us that not only can we survive, but we can also be actively happy with less than we think. It teaches us that we are stronger and more resilient than we thought. If we could accept this new paradigm, we would begin to see compromise as a source of growth and enrichment." What a revelation, uh?

The Myth of Easy Success, at All Costs and to Boast About

We are used to wanting and needing to be girlbosses. The world demands it of us. We girls are belittled and limited every day of our lives, for a variety of reasons. Too young and inexperienced first, too old and unattractive later. Too thin, too fat, too cute, or not cute enough, too feminine or too tomboyish. Not fit for science (or at least, that's what is traditionally said) or too romantic, with our heads in the clouds. Not suitable for leadership. To succeed, we must sweat twice as much. Demand a lot from ourselves, never stumble even once. As if that weren't enough, an ultracompetitive and capitalist society is added, which places economic success and wealth as the ultimate (or almost only) universal value, preferably flaunted in the face of anyone we meet on our path. How do we let go of the fear of failure, the mania of perfectionism, our happy facade behind which we hide? Our restoration friend said it: by accepting the possibility of compromise, and therefore of what could be considered failure.

The Girlfailure Trend

What would happen if we applied the laws of art restoration to our life and our expectations of success? What if, instead of incessantly showcasing our achievements, even the fake and exaggerated ones, we candidly admitted to encountering some setbacks, using these setbacks to learn and build? That's what thousands of other weary girls before us seem to have wondered, launching the hashtag girlfailure on social media, which currently gathers tens of thousands of videos and over 11.4 million views on TikTok. A shared sentiment, therefore, that under a layer of stringent and bitter irony asks, almost anxiously: what if we were all a bit of failures?

@_monica_alexandra_ Not an It Girl just an average mess #girlbossbehavior #personalvlog #venttok #girlfailure IT GIRL (Sped up Version) - Aliyah's Interlude
@heysalam4 Also found my halloween costume #bottoms #bottomsmovie #rachelsennott #ayoedebiri #EmmaSeligman #girlfailure original sound - Salam

Solidarity in Failure

According to Sarah Jones, who wrote about it for Teen Vogue, there is an element of consolation and community building in this type of content. Seeing other girls talk, ironically or not, about what they've done wrong, seeing examples of girlfailure in books, TV shows, and movies, we come to terms with our shortcomings, regain the desire to try again. And once again, the concept of girlhood comes to our aid, which, despite fragmenting into two million cores and movements, when viewed from above, always appears more nuanced and rich. We are girls together, we will inevitably fail together, and we will rise from our ashes together.