In the course of our lives, you hear over and over that “it’s ok to make mistakes” and “learn from your mistakes.” That’s great advice, except to a perfectionist like myself who believes that no mistakes are acceptable and failure, especially public failure, like the end of a marriage, relationship, or job, is never an option worth choosing. However, after many years of mistakes, some large, and some small, I believe in making mistakes.
I watch as my one-year-old son literally learns from his mistakes. His aren’t emotional mistakes, as his mother is prone to making, but physical ones. And without fail, he always eventually picks himself up from his mistakes, sometimes with no tears and sometimes with oceans of sobs, and moves onward through his world.
I have made more serious, adult mistakes that have haunted my existence, but I am also still moving forward. Even though I am loathe to do so, a short list of my emotional mistakes includes gaining and losing the best of friends, involvement in an abusive relationship, a quick marriage and divorce at a young age, cheating on a loved one, being so consumed with another person that I lost any and all sense of who I am. I have given everything and been burned, heartbroken, and lost more times than I care to remember.
My perfectionist eyes have heretofore only seen these as glaring mistakes. Proof that I am far from perfect, and therefore, far from acceptable. But watching my son and loving my husband, I realize something. I DID learn from my mistakes. Perhaps not consciously, but more subconsciously, in the same way my son does. An action was tried and failed, sometimes on a small scale and sometimes with disastrous consequences. But the cumulative effect of all those mistakes is a deep sense of knowledge; an awareness of the world and how one can move through it.
I always wanted to lead the perfect life. I made many mistakes and thought I had failed. It turns out that I hadn’t. I was just learning. I will never enjoy making mistakes. I will also never stop making them.
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