I was raised in a social environment to be the best and do the best I could. I started to instill that same philosophy in my daughter when she was younger, and I began to see how a perfectionism mindset came into being. I saw her set unreachable goals for herself, and then the utter sadness and low self-esteem that came from not reaching those unattainable objectives. And then I realized I had done that to myself, my whole life.
Yes, I quickly made a change in my expectations for her. In those moments when she has held exceptional standards and then not met them for herself, I have told her to give herself a break. She cannot do things perfectly the first time she tries – nobody can. We hear the old adage “practice makes perfect” and think it should be true. However, practice does not make us perfect, as nobody can reach that unattainable goal – ever. Practice makes us better.
And what happens before we reach better? or even best-in-our-talent? Failure. We fail to meet our goals and expectations. We fail to please the people we try to please. We fail to make that x amount of dollars we try to reach. We fail to… get the part in that film or play… sell that book or painting… pass that driving test… get into the college of our dreams… fit into that outfit… beat that game… get that promotion or new job… even buy the right ice cream.
And what happens when we fail? Usually we veer right or left and head into another direction. We might find a different outlet for our creativity, or a different outfit that works even better, or another job that makes us feel more fulfilled. We might make friends at a different college that we would never have made and we might delight our taste buds with an extraordinary new flavor. Or… we try again. And we might make it the next time.
Failure is not a bad word. Failure is practice. It’s a learning opportunity. It can be a new adventure. Keep trying my friends, but don’t beat yourself up for failing.
Because really, as my friend Leah would say, what will it matter throughout the rest of eternity?
That is a very good question, Leah.
I keep your words close to my heart and think of them often when I’m tearing myself down for not meeting my own perfect objectives. And then I remember the most important thing – that God loves us, no matter what. He is the only perfect.