Hillary Clinton Wants Young Women To Know They Don't Have To Be Perfect To Be Successful

"Don’t let it undermine you."

In her concession speech after last November's presidential election, Hillary Clinton sent a powerful message to young women. "To all the little girls who are watching this," the former Secretary of State said, "never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."

The statement resonated with so many that it became the most shared tweet in the United States in 2016. It even inspired a song by one of the millions of girls to whom Clinton was speaking. Now, Clinton is continuing to share words of encouragement to young women who wish to accomplish their goals — and she's making sure to point out that you don't have to be perfect to do it.


Clinton is one of 46 barrier-breaking women featured in a new multimedia project from TIME magazine called FIRSTS: Women Who Are Changing the World. Brazilian photographer Luisa Dörr took portraits of the women on an iPhone — including 12 covers, which showcase Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Ilhan Omar, Ava DuVernay, Janet Yellen, and more.

"Our goal with Firsts is for every woman and girl to find someone whose presence in the highest reaches of success says to her that it is safe to climb, come on up, the view is spectacular," reads the TIME website. The profiles will also be featured in a companion book.

Clinton's "first" is, of course, that she is the first woman to become a major party's nominee for President of the United States. (Incidentally, she was also the first woman to win the majority of the vote in a presidential election.) In a video and accompanying piece, Clinton addresses the sexism that continues to exist in modern society, and the unrealistic and damaging standards to which women and girls are often held.

"It should not be an impossible task for more women to achieve their own goals, but we face what is a pernicious double standard that is aided and abetted by the idea of perfectionism," Clinton says. 

The curse of perfectionism is an issue I've spoken about in the past. So many young women feel like they have to be perfect—that the world is telling them they're not pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, nice enough, likeable enough … whatever it may be. That somehow they fall short. I've tried to make it as clear as I can that they shouldn't be held back by this imposition of perfectionism. Nobody can achieve that. Yes, you have to be good, you have to be competitive. But don't let it paralyze you. Don't let it undermine you. Don't give in to those who are constantly demanding more and more of you when frankly they don't demand the same of your male counterparts.

Clinton goes on to share her belief that this expectation of perfectionism was used against her during the election: "So many articles about me always say, 'Oh well, she's flawed.' Well, name a person who isn't!" she says. "But that was part of the whole diminishment: Don't listen to her, don't follow her, don't vote for her. Let these other guys entertain you and go on their merry way, flaws front and center."

Clinton encourages young women to embrace their flaws, because everyone has them. "We've got to get to a point in our society where you expect excellence and you deliver excellence, but women should not be judged by a different set of standards about how they produce their work and how it's judged."

The former Democratic nominee has been increasingly candid about her experience during last year's election. She's currently promoting her new book What Happened, out September 12, which will include her thoughts on the sexism she faced during the race.

Cliton ends her TIME piece by reminding women that the fight isn't over just because she lost the presidency. "I don't want anyone to be discouraged by my defeat or say that they shouldn't try or support others who will try," she says. "We can't give up trying."

Cover image via Shutterstock.


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.