Last night, my friend and I were discussing the disease of perfection that permeates how women feel they need to be perceived. As a gender, especially with social media, we are made to feel that we should have the perfect ass, perfect hair, perfect face; be able to have an amazing career while being amazing mothers/partners; be sexy but not slutty; be feminine but not too girly; the list goes on.
As a man, the pressure is no less intense. You need to be a perfectly suave career man, steadily climbing the ladder; casually show off the abs that come from a little light sweat in the gym; be tough but not too tough; embrace sports; simultaneously be able to kill a spider and fix a faucet while tearing through a giant steak. Anything a woman could want all in one chiseled package.
This portrayal of superiority in every way possible is completely unrealistic and completely unhealthy.
Yet so many people have bought into this representation completely and live lives fraught with miserable comparison after miserable comparison. There is no room for widely deviating personalities. There is seemingly no forgiveness for error. In short, there is no relaxation into or even celebration of the fact that we are freakin’ human.
I cannot tell you how many times I have beaten myself up for making a mistake. I slipped up and ate something while dieting? I restrict even more out of frustration. I said something wrong to a friend? I flush with shame at every remembrance. I handled a situation wrong at work? I replay the scene over and over again. If I want to become the person that I hold up in my mind as the gold standard, there is simply no room for error.
I put a lot of pressure on myself as it is, and with the added vision of becoming a woman that has it all, I find myself shying away from things that might lead to error. Yet I have come to realize that this is the complete opposite of what I should be doing. If I really want to strive towards greatness, I need to embrace mistakes.
Love your mistakes.
How cringy does that sound? Love my mistakes? Hell no! Mistakes are what keep me from awesomeness!
Yet what we need to realize is, mistakes are what make UP our awesomeness.
I made a mistake when I was 19 years old and got married. This wasn’t a little “oops, I spilled a little Pinot Noir on the couch” mistake. No, this was a “shit, I just murdered 5 years of my life and I can never get them back” mistake. Talk about something you don’t want to blast all over social media.
And yet, that mistake has shaped me to be a better person. I am more empathetic. I can relate to people in their poisonous comfort zone. I have extremely high standards for who I even allow to take me on a second date. That fuck-up has given me invaluable knowledge.
Overall, the problem does not come when we make the mistake. The problem comes when we refuse to acknowledge that mistake and therefore deny ourselves the opportunity to ruminate on it, examine it, dissect it for the valuable information that it holds.
If you analyze the big, juicy, terrible mistakes that you have made over the years, you will undoubtedly find that you are now the proud possessor of subsequent clumps of education directly stemming from your deepest pools of shame IF you have taken the time to work through everything. If you have simply ignored the error and moved on, you are highly likely to make that same blunder again.
Sweeping the mistake under the rug will not cause the snafu to be unsnaffed. Everyone wants to be smarter, to have a broader base of knowledge, to know what to do in every situation. The irony of it is, you almost always have to do the wrong things before you figure out the right things.
Of course, one of the greatest tools we have as human beings is to learn from other people’s examples (and we don’t even have to actually know the person to do so!). Books, podcasts, articles—they all offer valuable information that will cut our learning time down in droves if we actually take advantage of them.
There is no escaping making miscalculations of our own, sometimes with catastrophic results (yet with a silver lining of incomparable knowledge if we choose to take advantage of it). But if we can glean the knowledge that other people have gained and graciously decided to share with us, we will be so much further ahead.
Holding back from living your life in order to minimize your mistakes is the shittiest way to live that I can think of. Our one life that we get to live deserves to be fiercely embraced, relentlessly experienced, and openly analyzed.
And lets be honest, mistakes are where the good stories come from. If nothing else, that moment that sends you sobbing into your pillow every night for a year will end up being the time that you eagerly share the most often IF you take the time to glean the wisdom that such an event presents.
Go out and be gloriously flawed. Strive for perfection whenever you can, but take advantage of the times that you fall. Seize every opportunity life sees fit to offer you, and continuously utilize every opportunity to improve in one way or another.
No one, and I mean no one, is perfect. We all have fuck ups. If you really want to be be a cut above, though, actually glean the knowledge from yours.