Perfectionism and Making Mistakes

woman sitting on a desk chair with her hands on her head with a worried expression

 

So many of us feel pressure to be perfect. Sometimes it comes from adults in our lives, sometimes it comes from inside ourselves, and sometimes it comes from comparing ourselves to our friends. Perfection is literally impossible because we are human beings and the thing that is common to all human beings is that we make mistakes and are therefore imperfect. 


Sure you can get a 100 on a test or we can get a perfect score on an ice skating performance, but none of us can be perfect all the time. However, not being perfect doesn’t stop us from wanting to be the best possible version of ourselves -- the best grades, the best athlete, the best daughter, the best friend and so on and so on. But working towards being the best can sometimes feel really exhausting and make us really fear making a mistake. Trying to be the best can keep us from seeing all of the funny, quirky, imperfect parts of us that makes us unique.

The truth is that we actually achieve being “the best” through messing up, owning up to our mistakes and learning from them rather than trying to show that we’re perfect all the time. Messing up not only teaches us new things, it also makes us stronger and prepares us for times when life gets even more complicated or more challenging.


Here are some suggestions for being the best we can while still being imperfect:

  • Own up to mistakes when they happen rather than trying to cover them up, lie about them or hope they’ll go away.

  • Share with someone we trust what it feels like when we make a mistake - embarrassment, shame, humiliation, disappointment - because naming our feelings makes them seem smaller, not bigger in our lives.
  • Don’t apologize for things that don’t deserve an apology. If you hurt someone physically or emotionally, you should apologize. Otherwise, get rid of the sorry!

  • Rather than worrying about what went wrong, take pride in what went right.

  • If trusted adults are laying on too much pressure, here are some responses:
    • I know you love me, but I’m feeling a lot of pressure from you right now and it’s making me less productive.
    • I put a lot of pressure on myself, what I really need from you right now is support.
    • I find I do better when you encourage me, rather than when you tell me what I did wrong.

 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio



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