Do you ever feel like you have to be perfect all the time? I don’t know about you, but I often feel a real sense of pressure to not make mistakes.
When you start at a new job, there seems to be an expectation that you should be good at what you do from the get go. Particularly in industries where mistakes mean very real consequences for clients, there is frequently an incredibly low threshold for errors.
In the age of smart phones, Facebook videos and TikTok, there’s an even greater reason to not stuff up. I honestly can’t think of much worse than having an embarrassing moment or gaffe caught on camera and shared with the world!
While the concept of public shaming isn’t new (anyone remember learning about the stocks in history class?), the dawn of the internet age has taken the idea to a whole new level.
Even just sharing your opinion can be a daunting task. We live in a world where we are often held to account for every word we say. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. It’s important to take the time to think through what we decide to endorse and ensure the things we share are true.
Likewise, taking a few minutes to check whether what you are about to say promotes stereotypes or is insensitive is an inherently good thing. Accountability is inherently a good thing.
What isn’t an inherently good thing, is being so paralysed by the fear of making a mistake, that we don’t do anything at all.
There is incredible freedom in being able to give something a go, and have permission to make mistakes along the way.
I went to a wheel throwing pottery class last night. I’ve done a little bit of hand build pottery before, so even though I’ve never used a pottery wheel I didn’t consider myself a complete beginner.
The teacher spent the first twenty minutes explaining and demonstrating the different processes. I was itching to have a go. ‘Let me at it’ I thought!
Not as easy as it looks
I can tell you, it is not as easy as it looks. My first 4 attempts were absolute disasters, while the lady next to me (also a beginner), had thrown a textbook bowl first try. As something of a perfectionist, I was not enjoying how this was playing out!
While it’s often uncomfortable at the time, making mistakes is an integral part of learning. In fact, it’s almost impossible to improve without making a few mistakes along the way.
Often we look around us at work, at our sports club, in a creative class and only see people who seem to get it right every single time. It’s a high bar to reach! Yet no one is immune to making mistakes. Some people might be better at hiding their mistakes than others, but no one gets everything perfect all the time.
On my third attempt at throwing in my pottery class I had to stop myself, and in my head, give myself permission to be ‘bad’ at what I was doing. While I didn’t immediately improve, taking away those expectations of perfection was incredibly helpful.
The pressure came off, I was able to experiment and I had a whole lot more fun than when I was so intently focused on getting everything ‘right’.
Of course, there are always times (mostly at work!) where it’s important to strive to do your best. But remember that nobody is perfect, and it’s far more important to be honest about mistakes, fix them and learn from them than to act like superman or superwoman all the time.
And if you feel like you need a safe space to let all your imperfection out, I highly recommend taking a pottery class.
Anna Waite hails from Brisbane, Australia. She enjoys travel, good coffee and getting to hang out with awesome people from around the world!