June 26, 2017

Finding the Freedom to Fail.

One would think by now, what with all my professional experience, that I would be a seasoned and savvy f*cker-upper.

But, alas, whenever I drop the ball, struggle, or straight-up bomb, I feel like a failure. A failure at said task, but also a failure at failing.

Such is the plight of the chronic perfectionist, a title I used to consider resume-worthy but now realize is one of my greater hinderances.

I recognize a similar pattern between myself and other Type As. We were the classroom kids who sat in the front row and quickly mastered our textbook’s lessons. We were the know-it-alls. But the problem with “knowing it all” is there’s little room for anything new. Maybe we can get by this way for a while, but eventually our luck runs out. Life drops a gnarly looking puzzle on our doorstep and no level of smarts can solve it. We’re stuck.

So what happens when we just don’t get it?

I can tell you what this looked like for me: Anything I didn’t pick up naturally was met with so much self-criticism and frustration that I would ditch it before I got the chance to learn. Just stick with what you know, my little ego assured me.

Failing was one of those things I just didn’t know how to do. I never learned how. So I pushed it away. I took easy jobs where I was the big fish but learned very little. I dated men who kept their hearts closed so I could decide how much to open up, and leave when I was done. I journaled my dreams in my notebook, but that’s where they stayed.

Cover closed, I was playing it safe.

And what a shame, because I missed out on a world of new experiences and skills my heart pined for but I wouldn’t dare try, knowing failure inevitably would greet me.

Skills like building a website, playing guitar, traveling solo, speaking French, or swing dancing. I craved them, and sometimes I would try, but most often I’d walk off, leaving behind a series of false starts. Not surprisingly, the shadow of envy arose when I watched other people living out my dreams.

Too many of us live in the shadow of our deepest desires.

Fearful and contained, we stand behind the line.

We need to unchain ourselves from this fear.

We need the freedom to fail.

I can proudly say I am now a recovering perfectionist and an amateur failure.

And damn, does it feel good.

Today, walking home from my challenging new job, I reflected on all the ways I royally messed up in past eight hours. I shake it off. I remember to breathe. I will mess up again tomorrow, and again the next day, and in time, I will get better and learn to mess up in a different way.

When I return home, I draw my new guitar from its case and begin to play. Choppy chords and blistered fingertips are my new greatest achievements.

I’m terrible and I love it.

I have finally found the freedom to fail.

Author/Editor: Danielle Beutell
Image: Mitchel Lensink/Unsplash
Copy Editor: Taia Butler
Social Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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