Jameela Jamil Gets Real About the Importance of Failure: "It Means You Were Willing to Try"

Jameela Jamil 92Y Panel
Maricela Magana | Michael Priest Photography
Maricela Magana | Michael Priest Photography

Jameela Jamil doesn't believe in legacies, and she isn't concerned with leaving her own, either. Why? "I just care about being a good person now and being loved by the people that I love and I respect. That's it," she said. For a woman who doesn't focus on what she'll leave behind when she's gone, the 33-year-old Good Place actress has already created quite the impact with her I Weigh movement (which will soon turn into a multimedia activism platform with her at the helm) and ongoing push to change how young adults are exposed to toxic messaging and dangerous diet products online. Jameela recently sat down with writer Ashley C. Ford at NYC's 92Y event to discuss these issues and the importance of failing and making mistakes.

"I'm embarrassed to be a part of this time, and that's why I'm working so hard to try and undo what I can."

Growing up, Jameela experienced an eating disorder and said she "was let down by celebrities and the people I looked up to, and it ruined a big part of my childhood." She explained, "I blamed them for the decisions that I made because they had a responsibility to do better for me, to tell me better messages, and to be a better role model." Today, celebrities and influencers still have the power to sell "nonsense to us," Jameela noted, and they have Photoshop to distort the truth about their appearances. "I'm embarrassed to be a part of this time, and that's why I'm working so hard to try and undo what I can," she said.

Jameela Jamil 92Y Panel
Maricela Magana | Michael Priest Photography

Just as Jameela uses her social media accounts to raise awareness for I Weigh and societal injustices, she also uses them to publicly acknowledge when she's failed. "I make mistakes, I'm human," she said. "As long as I'm willing to change, then there is value in what I am doing." In fact, Jameela previously posted a pinned tweet about all of the mistakes she's made in the past. "I realized people were starting to really take me seriously as a voice of support for marginalized groups and people were taking me seriously as an activist," she said. "I was like, 'Well hang on a minute. You're hailing me as some sort of feminist icon and I have made loads of mistakes.' I want everyone that comes to my page to know I am imperfect, and if you are imperfect as well, that's okay! We can learn together."

"It is never too late to check yourself and right your wrongs. I used to be slut-shamey, judgmental, and my feminism wasn't intersectional enough. Nobody is born perfectly "woke". Listen, read, learn, grow, change and make room for everyone. We aren't free til ALL of us are free.

— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) December 15, 2018

Jameela explained that her activism and social media presence works because "you can sense my passion, my error, and my drive, and I think that it's very clear that this is organic for me." She told Ashley and the crowd that it's also about listening and continuing to learn. "I have made it my mission to prove to people that it's okay to be ignorant as long as you are trying every single day to undo that and to learn more, to be better, and to do better," she said. "I think that is a pivotal part of our society and how we're going to grow to understand each other. If we become afraid of making mistakes or afraid of asking questions, we're never going to put our hands up and we're never going to learn."

"I don't find failure to be failure. I think failure is legendary because it means you were willing to try."

"I'm excited to learn. I don't find failure to be failure," she continued. "I think failure is legendary because it means you were willing to try." Jameela stated that women, in particular, are often told not to try for fear of failure. "We are dictated to what our lanes are from as soon as we can understand, and that's so toxic because there are so many things that you are all capable of that you have no idea about because you've never even been encouraged to try," she said. "Failure does not exist. The only thing I think failure exists in is not ever trying. That's the biggest failure that you can commit."

According to Jameela, to live a successful life one must be bold, take risks, and grow from mistakes. "Know that you're a good person and then it won't matter to you what other people think about you," she said. "It would be great if people with public personas could start to just admit that they're wrong more often, but we should also be more forgiving of each other and more forgiving of ourselves."

Jameela also had some crucial advice for women seeking success: "Fight back as long as it's physically safe for you. Be disobedient. Speak up for yourself. Ask people all the questions. Ask your male colleagues how much they earn. It shouldn't be taboo. You are programmed from an early age not to do that and that's because when you do it, it is often successful . . . speak up and speak out. I beg of you, be disobedient. It is pivotal to our future."