We live in a world that often demands perfection. From the time we are little children, we are urged not to make mistakes. While some parents are patient, compassionate and loving with their children when errors are made, others are harsh, demanding, and punitive. Our relationship with our “mistakes” begins early in life. When this relationship gets off to a bad start, there is often a great deal of suffering that comes with it. Children who experience minimal tolerance from adults, often have very little tolerance with themselves later in life. High expectations and absent compassion make it easy to miss out on all the gifts that making “mistakes” offers us.
In recent years, we’ve begun to see a shift in our awareness around the experience of making a “mistake.” With experts like, Kristen Neff, who specializes in teaching us about self-compassion, and Brene' Brown, who is changing the world with her shame resilience research, we are beginning to recognize the importance of being patient with our humanness. Fortunately, expectations of perfection are changing and with it we are seeing that getting it “wrong” doesn’t make us bad.
If you are an individual who struggles with the need to be perfect (or bear old wounds from parents who were harsh with you), here are 4 questions to ask yourself and consider when you’ve made a mistake or find yourself desperately trying not to.
1. What empowering insight do I have now that I didn’t have when I made the mistake? When answering this question and thinking about your mistake, be gentle. Keep in mind your age, your state of mind, the situation you were faced with at the time.
2. If I were to face the same situation again, what would I do differently based on the insight I gained? This is the perfect time to be introspective and open-minded.
3. If a life lesson was a jewel, what kind of jewel did your mistake give you? A DIAMOND is a life lesson that gave you clarity; a RUBY is a life lesson that left you a much greater awareness of your passion and what matters most to you; an EMERALD is received when you realize how the mistake you made helped you to grow; a PEARL is received when you’ve learned how to avoid engaging in situations that don’t fit you and cause much irritation.
4. How will you use the jewels you gathered going forward? Contemplate decisions you may need to make or actions you may need to take in the future and how these jewels will help you make choices that are in better alignment with your values and long-term goals.
Your answers to these questions can very likely change your perception of “mistakes” and how they, indeed, can be important gifts in your life.