We throw the word ‘perfectionist’ around a lot without any thought of the real mental pains it carries with it. Being a perfectionist is more than needing to get 100% on a paper or staying extremely organized. There is major anxiety fueling our actions with the desperate need to not make a mistake because that mistake is holding our self worth at gunpoint. The problem is that if you never make a mistake, you never learn the immense life skills that are generated from it.
Failing is more important than succeeding. With succeeding you only learn one way to do something ‘correctly’. But with failing you learn all the pieces to the puzzle and gain a global view of the many ways to ‘correctly’ complete a task. Let’s first review why we need to be open to failing and what skills you acquire by doing so. Then we will look at skills that make sure you bounce back and learn the most you can from each misstep.
If you fail a lot, you get to know what coping skills work for you and which ones do not. You also gain a keen understanding of yourself because you know roughly how you will act in various difficult situations. For example: If you tend to shut down when you have failed, you know that you need a coping skill that keeps you in the moment and feeling.
You are able to withstand or recover quickly after a distressing or difficult situation. This can be based in personality traits or developed over time, but either way you get back up.
-Practice & knowledge.
Practice gives you unique insight because you have seen the negative outcomes and the weaknesses of the problem. This makes it so you can develop a plan of attack quickly and usually have plans B and C ready to roll. Even if the situation is not the same, you can often detect obstacles ahead of time and create effective solutions.
-Our true character.
While failing you start to see who you are and who you would like to be. As long as we take the time to fully process the situation, we can see how we acted (good or bad) and how we would like to act in the future. We also take the time to develop and understand our opinions. Along with a stronger sense of self.
-Gives goals value.
Out of all the characteristics, I think this is the most important. Being thankful and appreciative when you achieve your goal. If you truly work hard toward something, you are more likely to take good care of it or take extra time to maintain it. Specifically if you have worked toward the goal and failed to achieve it in the past. There is a sense of pride that ignites when we finally meet a goal and have truly worked our hardest to achieve it.
Bounce back and learning from failure:
-Five Senses Mindfulness.
Using your five senses (sight, smell, taste, hear, and feel) I want you to experience a simple task like making tea, opening/eating an orange, or exercising. (with exercise- think about the taste of water, don’t lick your shoes or anything). By doing this you are are getting out of your head and all the rumination we tend to do after a defeat, and bringing yourself back to your body in a mindful way.
-Find your spirituality.
Everyone is a little different in this area, but the idea is that you find that inner calm. Praying, meditating, reading the Bible, or being in nature are ideas for this area. I enjoy going on a hike, skiing or mountain biking- nature makes me feel grounded and focused.
Embrace the emotions that you are feeling. Cry if you need to cry, sleep if you need to sleep. You need to listen to your body and do what feels best for you. This is a big part of self care- being aware of what you need. Don’t worry about putting a task off for later or just giving yourself time to just do something that you enjoy.
– Sit down make a plan.
Once you have calmed down, sit down and write out a plan. Pay attention to each piece of the puzzle. Note what seemed to work okay and what did not. Make sure that your goal is broken down into simple, objective steps and you set up the supports you need.
– Refocus your priorities.
Take a moment to assess if you are moving in the direction that feels the best and that align with all your other goals. One reason you might have failed is because your heart is not in it and you really want something else. Or maybe you just need to compromise with the goal so that it fits into your life easier. The main objective here is to focus on what really matters.
My Challenge to you: Think about your failures in life (we all have them) and determine what you learned from them. Set out to try something that you are fairly certain you will ‘fail’ at- like youtube hip hop dancing classes or cooking with a new recipe. Go through this process of not being perfect and pay close attention to how you feel, how you cope, and how you want to move forward with it.
Happy failing friends!
– Jessie the Therapist