Give Yourself Permission to Fail (and this is coming from a recovering perfectionist)
Ok, so, generally, we think failure is bad, right? You fail your maths test, and that means you suck at maths.
If you watched last week’s TED talk video about failure, you might have realised that, in the world of lifestyle design, failure is often seen as something good.
The idea is that you won’t get better if you don’t DO. If you want to be fluent in German, first of all you have to suck, then you can be ok at it, then you’ll get good, and, eventually, you might be fluent. You can’t just go from knowing nothing to sounding like a native speaker without making mistakes along the way.
Now, being a perfectionist and a language student, I’ve not been very good at letting myself fail. If I fail, I beat myself up because I’ve not achieved what I wanted to achieve. I imagine most of us are like that.
But, even if you’re a perfectionist, or maybe especially if you’re a perfectionist, you should really give this ‘failure is ok’ thing a whirl.
I’ve always wanted to build an igloo.
It’s a random one but it’s always been on my bucket list.
Well, it’s been snowing recently, and, when I found myself not even considering going out to play in the snow because I had work to do, I gave myself a metaphorical slap around the face and told myself off for being so boring.
I realised that I’d never even attempted to build an igloo, so I texted my neighbour and asked if she wanted to go out and fail at building one. I figured it was something I’d have to build up to, and someone said it was the wrong kind of snow etc.
I had no intention of building an igloo because I didn’t think I would be able to. But I wanted to try because then I’d at least be closer to one day building an igloo.
So, my neighbour and I went out and built a snow snail (yes, a snow snail).
But, as we were heading home, my sister and her boyfriend were on their way out, so, with them, I started trying to build an igloo.
It was going well but we had no plan, we were doing it wrong (because we were just squashing snow down, not making those snow brick things), and we had no idea how we would make a roof if we even managed to build the walls high enough.
Lots of people came over to see what we were doing, and, as it got bigger, I started to believe that we could actually do it.
It got taller and taller. We started to curve the walls in. We got the roof to stay curved in. And then we managed to close up the roof.
Guys, we had built an igloo!
And we were pretty flippin’ excited about it. We rang home to make our parents come and see, just like when we used to come up with rubbish little dances to perform to them when we were kids.
Now, I know this sounds slightly ridiculous. We are only talking about snow after all. But I’d always wanted to do this, I’d never even attempted it, I had no plan, I even knew I was doing it wrong, and I had absolutely zero belief that we would be able to do it.
But we did.
I learned that sometimes it’s worth trying, even if you think you will fail.
Maybe you will fail, but you will have brought yourself closer to your goal. For example, if we’d tried and found out that we needed to perfect the art of making those ice/snow brick things, we would have learnt one thing that would have made it more likely that we’d build one in the future.
But, sometimes, not every time, but sometimes, you might actually do better than you expect. And maybe you’ll even succeed.
This success story made me realise that I’ve let my fear of failure hold me back.
I’ve been trying to start working as a freelance graphic designer, but, if you’ve been following Young Ambitions for a while, you’ll know that this started in October. It’s been almost four months and I don’t even have a website up yet.
I thought I was being lazy, but I realised that I’m actually scared. I’m scared that no one will hire me. I’m scared that I’m kidding myself. I’m scared that I’m going to end up having to get a job I hate.
So, rather than face those fears, I’ve faffed. I’ve taken my time doing design work to build up my portfolio. I’ve ummed and ahhed about how to brand myself. I’ve worried about all the little details I need to research about tax and whatnot. I’ve been putting it off.
But putting it off only makes it more likely that I’ll fail.
If I just put myself out there, I’ll find out that there’s something I’ve missed, or that I would have been better off branding myself using my name. Maybe I’ll find out that, actually, freelancing isn’t for me.
And I’ll be able to tweak and change these things until they do work. Or I’ll be able to try something completely different instead. Either way, I’ll be making progress.
But if I don’t actually DO it, I won’t be able to succeed.
The only way to ensure that I fail is by not trying.
And that’s what I’ve got to remember.
If you’re in a similar position, and there’s something you’re scared about, or something you’re putting off, think about what could happen if you just went for it, and opened yourself up to the possibility of failing, and what will happen if you don’t try.
When you see failure as a step on your way to success, suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so scary anymore.
And if you want to read more about fear and failure, this month The Skool of Life and The Fear Project have been publishing posts daily about dealing with fear. You can read the first post in the series here.
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