Updated: Apr 22, 2020
Where did the idea that I was supposed to be perfect come from? Somehow it made its way into my inner self when I was still quite young. I grew up thinking making mistakes was a sign of failure. I thought I was supposed to be able to do everything perfectly, and, if I couldn’t do something well the first time I tried it, most likely I wouldn’t try again. The last thing I wanted to do was to appear as weak or stupid or, heaven forbid, a fool.
Of course, I knew I wasn’t “perfect” but I never questioned the belief that I was supposed to be. It didn’t dawn on me—though I took piano lessons—that a pianist has certainly hit many wrong notes on the way to being a soloist with the Philadlephia Orchestra. Perhaps a million. Making mistakes turns out to be a natural part of learning anything.
Today when I think of a mistake, a camera comes to mind: What is a mistake other than a miss-take? I take a shot. Whoops, missed the most beautiful flower in the garden? No problem. That’s what the garbage can icon is for. I can adjust the camera and take another shot.
Life is experimental, after all. We try something and it works so we do it again. We try something; it doesn’t work; we try something else. Easy. Perhaps the most important thing to me in wending my way through this life of constant change and learning is how I treat myself when I try something and it doesn’t work as I thought it would or hoped it might. Every miss-take is another opportunity to be kind and gentle with myself, to love myself through the process of life as it emerges day by day.
Somewhere I heard that the Buddhist definition of perfection is not that we stay on the path but that we keep coming back to it again and again. I like that. Then I heard that a jetliner is only on course 2% of the time. The rest of the time it’s course correcting. I like that, too. A life worth living is a life in process. Life flows; we flow with it. A mistake? Time for a course correction. Again, easy.
I can give myself a break, in fact as many breaks as I need, and be an encouraging friend to myself. Kindness allows me to relax, take a deep breath, look around and see what is the next thing in front of my feet that invites me to move forward and do it.