I don’t know how many times in my life I have sabotaged my own success because I’m afraid of failing. It seems I would rather quit than be seen as a failure. At least then, I am the one who chooses my own path, not someone else because they have decided I’m not good enough. The trouble with this idea of perfectionism is that it’s based on seeking approval: What will people think if I fail? Or, I am what I accomplish – or don’t. If we don’t dare to try, for fear of failing, we miss opportunities to grow. Not just in an area of expertise, but in the opportunity to learn an important life lesson.
NO-ONE IS PERFECT
Have you ever looked at someone and thought that their life seems perfect while yours is a mess? The problem is you are comparing your inner life with their outer life. I have often thought that if everyone was willing to share their imperfections with the world, we’d all realize that no-one is perfect and that’s OK. It would allow us to take risks. We all admire a risk-taker. But what we don’t seem to realize is that those people who take risks, have also had a lot of failures. The difference is they don’t allow the possibility of failure to stop them from trying something new.
In the book, Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, there is a quote: “We had done a painful dance and lost. But extraordinary things happened as well.” When I went to a writing workshop recently, a number of unexpected things happened. Before I arrived there was a tornado that took out the electricity and left us without water for 24 hours. Not only that, I got a migraine headache that precluded me from writing one morning. And then my computer went on the fritz when we finally did get electricity. But what I learned was that people at the French River learn to manage with whatever comes their way, and that’s what I had to do as well. A good life lesson to be sure. Not only that, I met some wonderful people, learned to write a feature article, and I overcame my fear of driving long distances alone in order to be there. So the weekend ended up being a much deeper experience precisely because it wasn’t what might be considered, perfect.
By accepting that things don’t have to be perfect, frees us up to enjoy the experience we’ve been granted, thus freeing ourselves from anxiety, expectations, and self-imposed feeling of the shame of possible failure.
Everyone feels inadequate at one time or another. But there are some things we have no control over. It’s how you deal with what happens that counts. I’m trying to get my book published and I’m struggling with the whole idea that people are going to judge my work. And they will. I have to remember that despite what happens going forward, I tried. I put myself, and my work, out there and took a risk. But should I be deemed a failure if things don’t work out? I still have a wonderful family, a roof over my head, great friends who will support me, and — I am still me. Not some lesser version of myself because things didn’t work out.
If we live a life where there is no room for mistakes, vulnerability, or compassion for self, we risk living a life of anxiety and depression because we will never be able to live up to our own, or someone else’s expectations of perfection. So ask yourself, “Where does this need to be perfect come from?” Trying to improve yourself is one thing. Beating yourself up because you’re trying to attain the unattainable idea of perfection is quite another. So be kind to yourself. Try your best, and enjoy the experience you have been given. And remember this quote:
Related Posts: You are Good Enough Jan 1, 2016
Idea based on: The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown