Most of us have felt the need for perfectionism – whether this is wanting a particular event to be a standout in the guest’s calendar; a presentation at work where we spend hour perfecting each slide; an outfit being just right for the occasion or life going a certain way and hitting what we think are ‘life goals’ we should all achieve at an exact moment. Isn’t it exhausting? I certainly have found this over time and have had to step back and think of the negative impact it is having on my life.
Currently, in education, growth mindset and ‘making mistakes’ is common place, with these elements being incorporated into the curriculum. Carol Dweck, through her research, talked about fixed mindset verses growth mindset. ‘They noticed that some students rebounded while other students seemed devastated by even the smallest setbacks.’ (https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/) Incorporating the acceptance of mistakes has become a key focus in the classroom; as teachers we need to believe in this ourselves. It is sometimes challenging to do so when your own education did not promote this belief and mistakes were seen as a sign of failure. The feeling of embarrassment and shame can easily take hold. As an adult, I have learnt that failure and setbacks are par of the course, and that it is okay to accept this.
I have always tried to do my utmost; trying to make every element of my life ‘perfect’, from my perspective. Over time, this has been exhausting and I found it was sometimes subconscious – not realising I was trying to do this in all facets of life. I was setting unachievable goals, which caused unnecessary pressure on me and, quite possibly, those around me.
Unfortunately, I learnt that ‘falling over’ was possible and had to accept failure – not due to my actions, but events that were out of my control. This did not stop me feeling like a failure. If you are someone that has experienced fertility issues, or some other form of trauma, you can possibly empathise with the feeling of ‘failure’ and that you have done something wrong and let other people down. I can say ‘you are not a failure’ but it is easily said than done and we all work on this in different ways.
For me, accepting that life does not go as planned all the time, and events will surprise you, was part of the lesson in trying to make everything ‘perfect’. The traumas I have experienced have taught me a lot about getting back up, being resilient. If I had experienced the promotion of ‘growth mindset’ when I was younger, in education and life, then I may have found these challenges, not easier, but managed them in a slightly different way. They almost consumed who I was. However, accepting ‘mistakes’, whether a direct result of our actions or not, is a lesson that we can continue to learn beyond school and throughout our lives.