Throughout my life, I have heard inspirational sayings like “practice makes perfect” and “strive for perfection”, which made me ashamed of making mistakes. Perfection, perfection, perfection.
When I was little, I would bring my report card home to my dad and wait for his verdict on my success. If I happened to have a B or two, then a frown would appear on his face and he would say, disapprovingly, “You could do better” and to rest of the otherwise perfect grades, he’d give me an unsatisfactory “Good”. I remember thinking that I had to keep working harder, to keep pushing myself until I got everything right so that I could earn my father’s approval.
Then, during middle school, my father left my family and moved to another state, which left me waiting for a judgment that didn’t exist anymore. This transition was tough for me because my mom started to depend on me more, with problems that couldn’t afford mistakes. I felt like I could never make mistakes that normal teenagers made, like not doing the chores or accidently crashing the car. Any mistakes I made would cause my mother to stress out and worry, so I tried my hardest to be perfect for the sake of my mother’s sanity.
I believed that if I could somehow be the perfect daughter with perfect grades, then my father would come back and be proud of me. I was always so confused because even though my father didn’t live with us anymore, he would still come back and visit and ask to see my grades which always received a “Good” or “You could do better”. I never realized how much I really pushed myself until high school, when I started taking harder classes and harder tests. My grades started slipping from A’s to B’s because I would panic during tests and do badly on them, even if I knew all the material! Each failed test meant a hard blow to my self-confidence because it meant that I wasn’t smart or good enough to deserve my father’s attention.
After a full five years of these tribulations, I realize that I can’t keep wasting my life worrying about possible failures and imperfections because these worries are the very factors in my setbacks. I am my own worst enemy in the fact that I doubt myself when I should have the confidence to let whatever happen, happen. I have become tired of obsessing over my mistakes. I’ve become tired of yearning for my father’s praise. And I’ve become tired of handicapping myself.
So I am learning to accept my mistakes. I’m learning that I didn’t need my father to define who I am. I’m learning to become stronger from mistaking makes. I’m learning to strive forward, not for perfection, but for my self-confidence.
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