The desire to excel encourages achievement. However, when aspiring for excellence turns into the pursuit of perfectionism, then you are creating unnecessary anxiety in your life. Perfectionism is an attitude often fueled by a fear of failure or criticism. In contrast, willingness to make mistakes and look a little foolish will help you improve your skills, accomplish excellence and enjoy your life. Most successful people have “failed” their way to success.
Note that avoiding perfectionism doesn’t entail becoming careless. There is a happy medium between perfectionism and being carefree. Too little attention to external feedback can lead to thoughtless, reckless and offensive behavior.
The benefits of handling a little discomfort
People who are not afraid of being a novice or making mistakes tend to get good at many things quickly because they are not held back by their doubts and a lack of confidence. Think of the possibilities you miss out on if you avoid the following situations because of your fear of failure:
• Striking up a conversation with someone despite the possibility of being rejected.
• Asking for a job despite potential for disappointment.
• Telling a loved one how you feel.
• Requesting that someone treat you differently.
• Asking someone for help.
• Talking to your children about awkward subjects.
• Starting a business venture.
• Participating in a sport or class when you are a newcomer.
• Practicing a foreign language.
• Singing and dancing.
The benefit of making mistakes
We should welcome mistakes because they show us how we need to make adjustments to improve our life. If we look objectively at the feedback we get from others, we will speed up our learning curve about how to execute tasks and interact with the world around us.
Socializing and dating
Think about dating and making friends. If you avoid the risk of looking foolish, you will have a hard time socializing. How can you learn interpersonal skills unless you put yourself out there? How would you learn to read body language and to hone your communication skills? No one is a master at making friends or reading the hidden meaning generated by body language without having some experience of engaging with people. You need to make mistakes and make adjustments in your behavior, desires, and expectations. You learn to modify your style of communicating, your openness, the topics of conversation you engage in by learning to be sensitive to feedback from others.
So it’s important to accept and even embrace discomfort and mistakes and to risk failure. Making mistakes is part of the human experience. That is how we learn and evolve – and succeed! By embracing the risk of failure you will be rewarded by a reduction in the negative anxiety associated with fear of failure, leaving only the healthy and normal anxiety associated with the excitement about future possibilities. A whole world of opportunities opens up to you.
by Dr. Alison Poulsen