In every mistake comes an opportunity for growth: and if we aren’t growing, we’re dying. – Me
I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. Shocking, I know. I wouldn’t say that perfectionism is my particular character flaw, because I don’t desire to be perfect. Nothing is perfect – logically, I know it’s not attainable. In the quest for as-close-to-perfect-as-possible, I spend far too much time overthinking every possible outcome of a choice or scenario. Instead of just DOING. And trying. And, failing.
Fear of failure is my hubris.
That’s an ironic thought: this idea of failure connected to hubris, especially for someone who has been labelled “arrogant” and “overconfident” in the past. I’ve woven those labels into a shield to protect my heart from criticism. But that shield is getting heavy.
I love trying new things and expanding my horizons, but if I’m not immediately good at that new thing, I quit. I can’t handle it. I am not successful at making the mistakes I need to make in order to grow.
I think this is a common sentiment. Think about it: how easy is it to sit at home, doing the same old things with the same old people? It’s scary putting yourself out there and trying new things.
What if it’s awkward.
If it’s awkward, you’re uncomfortable. If you’re uncomfortable, it might be a mistake. If it’s a mistake, then why the hell did you even give it a go in the first place. Sound familiar?
And to that, I just say: so what.
Go ahead. Tell me how awful it is to have an awkward interaction at the grocery store with the cashier. Tell me how you’re stuck at your boss’s holiday party with nobody to talk to, so you’re just standing there in the corner and you look like an idiot. Tell me how much you want to take up knitting, or photography, or sailing, but you’ll just suck at it, and everybody else will already be good at it, so there’s no point in even trying.
Do you think the cashier is going to remember how awkward you were? Do you think anybody is really going to be standing around at that party thinking, wow, look at her standing there, all alone. Do you really think anybody will care if your very first knitted scarf is a little crooked, or if your first few photos are beautiful compositions of the inside of your lens cap?
Let’s put it this way. Put the thing down, flip it, and reverse it.
Think back to a scenario in your life in which you were the comfortable, resident expert, and somebody new came around. Maybe there was a new kid in class, or a new colleague at work. Would you think back about your interactions with that person like, “Oh wow, this new person is such a dummy. They don’t know anything.” Of course not. And if you did, well, I’m here to tell you that you’re a jerk, and you need to get your shit together.
I ride horses on the weekends. I’m not some grand expert or anything; I just take a lesson once a week. I *love* watching beginners ride, because you know what? They bring out all of those feelings of exhilaration and novelty that I had when *I* was learning, all those years ago. Watching them make mistakes shows me that there’s always room to learn, because we learn by making mistakes. And, honestly, watching a beginner reminds me that maybe I *do* know what I’m doing after all (This is very helpful during times when I feel like everything I do is terrible and I’m not good at anything).
This post was originally supposed to tell the story about how I screwed up a bunch of job proposals yesterday. I made some pretty embarrassing mistakes. I sent proposals with blatant grammatical errors and typos. I was rushing, careless, and I thought that I could just charm my way through them, as I have in the past. The good news? I’ll never actually know if the typos and errors cost me the gigs. I could be quietly rejected for other things (definitely not my sparkling personality, obviously).
But you know what? I put myself out there. I went for it. I did the thing. I’ll just proofread my proposals more carefully next time, because I need to learn from my mistakes. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn something new, and to grow.
The lessons that stick with us the most are often the ones we learned the hard way.
So, what about you? Have you learned anything from an embarrassing mistake? Tell me all about it.