There sure are a lot of how-tos out there – but do they teach you how to fail? It is an essential part of everything you do. Because everything you do can go wrong. I, for example, did not learn how to fail. The only thing I know how to do is trying very hard for perfection and feeling like a failure when I don’t achieve it. Fortunately, it’s become less bad because when you reach for perfection? You are practically failing. all. the. time. But even though it has gotten better for me, I still don’t see many options apart from: doing something correctly. It doesn’t occur to me that I could do it half-assed, or wrong, or *gasp* not at all.
So this post is one step in the right direction because I’m writing about failing without knowing how to fail – so I must inevitably fail at this post! Great, right?
Let’s see what I can come up with … forgiveness. One major part of being able to fuck up in peace is forgiving yourself. Forgiving is quite hard for me. But it’s necessary to tell my self that it’s okay when I’m stressed. It’s okay when I’m too tired to work and it’s okay when I don’t really know what to do with myself today. It’s also okay, if I don’t understand a task right away, it’s okay to ask and it’s okay to have to ask again.
What I struggle with is people seeing me not being perfect. When I look at that statement, it’s a little bit ridiculous. I mean, who cares how I perform? People may notice I am looking kind of awkward or that I don’t really know what I’m doing, but it doesn’t make them feel particularly bad. And if it would make them feel bad that wouldn’t be my responsibility. But here comes the twist: when you are a child and your parents are disappointed in you (or don’t react to you in any way), you can’t just tell yourself that those are their feelings. You are dependent on them and dependent on their approval and, in a perfect world, you would get all the time you need to learn, when you grow up, that you are separate from them and can survive on your own. Well, that’s not what happened to me so I’m trying as best I can to learn to be okay with me. And to be okay with the emotions of shame or guilt or disappointment that come up when I don’t get something right. And to reassure myself, despite these emotions, that everything’s okay.
We also don’t have a culture that’s particularly fond of failing. We like to see success stories, people overcoming struggles and being happy in the end. I certainly want to see myself happy, but this is not a movie. And that means I have to accept I won’t have an ideal learning curve that never falters. I have to get my expectations straight. If I keep really high expectations up all the time, I’m setting myself up for failure. I’m actively hurting myself. Because it’s just not nice to go “You obviously have to try harder.”, when someone fails. Sometimes you really have to readjust your expectations.
So in the end, be kind to yourself. Adjust your expectations. Set yourself reasonable goals. And always acknowledge how far you’ve come and how much effort you’ve invested.