I used to wish that someone would write an encyclopedia on how to live successfully. A book that I could pick up whenever stuff got tough or life got too difficult. I wanted all the answers to the big dilemmas that regularly overwhelmed me…like how do people work, exercise, eat healthily, meditate, learn a new skill AND text all their friends back without getting burnt out after a week? Why do I wake up feeling sad sometimes? How will I know when I have found my purpose in life? Do I even have a purpose in life?
It took me a long time to realise that what I actually wanted wasn’t a book of answers. What I wanted was to be perfect. I wanted to get everything right first time and every time. I wanted to never worry about messing up or embarrassing myself or exposing my lack of knowledge in any area. I wanted to avoid the insecurity and shame that struck when I made a mistake.
I just wanted to be a human doing instead of a human being.
But the thing with perfection is…it doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as a perfect human being. There’s only human beings making the best of what they have got. When I stopped trying to be perfect, a couple of things happened. Firstly, I started to connect with people in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. Striving for perfection turned me into my own echo chamber – I only thought about how I came across, or how I could come out best, or how I could get it right. Mistakes humanised me and made me personable. We can’t always relate to successes but we can normally identify with mistakes because we’ve all made them at one point.
Secondly, I learnt to let go of my ego and to have fun. Perfection is a hard façade to keep up. And to be honest, it’s boring. What do you learn from being perfect? What do new things do you discover about yourself? My mistakes make me more memorable than perfection ever will.
Finally, I learnt that making mistakes is part of the human experience. If you never fail, you will never learn. Failure can be hard after trauma, especially if you grew up in a punitive or authoritarian household where mistakes were harshly punished. But mistakes do not and should never define us. We are more than just the stuff we got wrong or the things we missed.