If there is one thing I feel like I end up perpetually doing, it’s making mistakes. Through trials and errors galore, I’m surprised I’m still able to stand upright after how many times I’ve tripped and have been kicked while still face-down on the ground.
But from all of the seeming “failures” that I have under my belt, I can say that I’m a better person from it all. For someone who strives for perfection, you wouldn’t expect me to be so calm about my pitfalls. I embrace them.
So I sound like a walking contradiction, but what’s new there? As a society, as individuals looking upon ourselves and others, we scour at the idea of being sub-par. Or, dare I say, make a complete and utter mistake. The accompanying shame, guilt, and sense of defeat are enough to keep us “in line,” making sure we perform at our optimal performance in everything we do.
Maybe I’m too critical about the capitalistic mindset, but now more than ever we expect every aspect of our lives to be done perfectly, quickly, effortlessly. We don’t leave much margin for error, and if something does malfunction, if someone doesn’t live up to our high expectations, we exude frustration that reverts the cycle again back to our immediate gratification.
In these moments, we forget our humanity. Our essence that makes us who we are. The word “failure” has a negative connotation that leaves an acrid taste in our mouths. We shun those who fail. We look down upon them as if we are somehow better, that we are of a greater caliber ourselves that wouldn’t dream of “stooping so low.”
Except nobody is better. No amount of success, money, or fame makes one person better than the other. Again, we forget our humanity. We champion those who are invincible, that appear as if they can do no wrong. But for those who exude perfection, what do we learn from them?
No matter how hard we try, we aren’t robots. We cannot always act impartially, without any sense of emotion. We bring different perspectives and experiences to the table, and from that vast array of variance, we inevitably see those who may thrive in certain areas and those face more struggles. But we only values those who end up with “positive” results. We label success and failure as black and white, a strict divide that includes “appropriate” reactions for each that maintain the status quo.
We need to set aside these misconceptions. We must discourage the fear associated with making mistakes in whatever we may do in life, whether it’s a job, school, or any situation we face. We aren’t going to say and do the right thing at every given moment. Nobody is capable of such a feat. Even if someone could theoretically live life perfectly, what does that even mean? How do we define a failure- and mistake-free existence? And from that existence, what would one gain from it?
When we admire those who have seemed to achieve so much in their lifetimes, do we realize that they would not have earned prestige without faults? Best-selling authors who have been rejected by many publishers. World leaders who have faced scrutiny and notoriety. Inspirational figures who use their past struggles as a foundation for their words. The path to fulfilling their purposes came from their flaws.
We need mistakes. Imperfection is a tool for growth. By facing an obstacle, no matter the end result, we are making progress for ourselves. What feels like a step backward acts as an archery bow propelling us to whatever our next target may be. Taking our mistakes in stride, accepting them and utilizing their lessons, is one of the greatest choices we can make.
Admittedly, mistakes are uncomfortable. I’ve had enough of those for a few lifetimes. And while yes, it’s still difficult to accept those flaws without it making me slightly cringe, I have learned that the mistakes are just as, if not more so, than my successes. I am a patchwork of moments, good and bad, interwoven with the takeaway messages and lessons they have taught me. Even when I feel like I’m weighed down by a multitude of difficult challenges, of painful moments, of hardships, that heaviness keeps me grounded and allows me to empathize more with others. It has developed my voice into one now especially honed in on doing good and helping whoever I can.
We cannot grow from flawlessness. Perfection translates into tunnel-vision, a blindness to the reality of living a full and challenging life. Just as perfectionism toward ourselves ultimately holds us back, the same goes for expecting an entirely clean slate from others. Making mistakes shows that we’re trying, that we’re putting in effort and growing from it. Embracing pitfalls means we can wear them on our tool belts with whatever challenge we may face.
We cannot avoid mistakes. We cannot let mistakes hold us down and discourage us from risky, challenging ventures. The more mistakes we make, the more opportunities for us to reflect and grow. Our brain neurologically pays more attention to mistakes. We are more aware of our actions, enabling us to spark more learning. But our greatest mistake as a society? Breeding the mentality that mistakes are not valuable, that they require punishment.
I remember one Pinterest quote asking what we would do if we knew we couldn’t fail. Because we can truly do anything we set our minds to if realize it’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to stumble and accept defeat. It’s okay if things don’t work out just as they should. The final product is not the sole display of our work and character; it’s the effort and the process. If we choose to see struggle as productive and not debilitating, then yes, we can truly accomplish anything.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie