Elizabeth Day nails the big difference between how men and women view failure

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Approaching guests for the How To Fail With Elizabeth Day podcast showed the author, journalist and podcast sensation an eye opening difference in how men and women deal with failure.

Elizabeth Day didn’t just write the book on learning and growing from your mistakes, she recorded the podcast on it, too.

Already an extremely successful journalist and author, Day’s memoir How To Fail is critically acclaimed, a Sunday Times best-seller and has sparked a book tour (tickets for which are on sale now). Plus, it was inspired by her chart-topping podcast How To Fail With Elizabeth Day, in which she welcomes guests such as her good friend Phoebe Waller-Bridge to share what they’ve learned when things haven’t quite gone according to plan. 

And it was while recording the podcast that Day says she has developed a deeper understanding of the differences in how men and women perceive failure, and how this continues to effect them longterm.

Speaking at Stylist Live LUXE, Day admits on stage that in the first series of her podcast (before its reputation had reached the dizzy heights that it has today), she started out by asking contacts and friends if they would like to be podcast guests, some of whom were male. 

Their response? Well, Day explains that many of the men she approached to speak about their failures said they “didn’t think they were right for the podcast” because they “didn’t think they had failed at anything.”

Day remarks that the contrast in reactions between the men and the women, were huge: “The women I asked said, ‘Oh my god I’ve failed so much.’ It was fascinating.” Witnessing this led her to see a pattern in how men and women interpret failure, and how we let it change our perceptions of ourselves.

“Of course, when some of those men came on the podcast, they had failed at stuff, they just hadn’t seen it like that. It was a category error. I think what that told me, to speak in very binary and general terms for a minute, was that if you are born a white, middle-class male, then the earth is still generally made in your image. You inherit the earth,” she says.  

Day continues: “So, your journey makes sense to you, and any little obstacle that encounter is not a verdict on you or who you are. It’s just a little obstacle that you need to get over on your path to success. Whereas women, and marginalised people, do not have that privilege. Therefore they are more likely to internalise failure and see it as the definition of themselves.”

Day’s observation speaks volumes, and is a reminder that as women we need to keep pushing ourselves, and the women around us, to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve instead of letting our fear of failure hold us back. 

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Images: Bronan McNeil

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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