We are all terrified of making mistakes. For some of us, the thought of doing anything that could possibly invite anyone to criticize us paralyzes us from making a move. The thought of annoying someone – the thought of being that person whose call is ignored with an eye roll and a sarcastic remark to whoever happens to be in the room of the person you’re calling, the thought of stammering or blushing through a speech, presentation, or even just an intimidating conversation, the thought of trying to do something new like start a business or start a family and completely failing before even making it off the ground so no one takes you seriously ever again, or even the thought of a simple touch or hug making someone cringe and think of you as clingy can absolutely paralyze us from trying to do anything, ever.
“The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” – Aristotle
This impulse to do exactly that out of the fear of rejection or failure is so strong we don’t even realize how insane it is. And it’s a tragedy. Because when you try to be perfect, you miss on out being so much more than that. You miss out on making the room laugh at your joke because you were too afraid they wouldn’t think it was funny. You miss out on creating things you were afraid would turn out badly. You keep your opinions and flaws to yourself because you’re afraid someone will look down on you for them. No one wants to be the person everyone in the room talks bad about later. We don’t want to be the person our friends roll their eyes at, ignore our calls, or laugh at behind our back. But not only do we miss out on being awesome sometimes, we miss out on learning how to deal with being less than awesome. When we don’t experience humiliation and failures and rejection, we don’t know how to deal with it when it happens, and it completely rocks our entire sense of self and identity. Someone rejects us and suddenly we feel like we’re just inherently terrible at everything and unlovable by anyone instead of learning to shrug it off and try again. That’s the thing about holding yourself to such an impossible standard. When you fail, your entire view of yourself shatters.
The thing is, we’re going to experience all these horrible things anyway at some point. We’re all so painfully transparent, even when we’re shy and trying to hide, and tip-toeing around trying to please everyone. Everyone can see us doing that and see right through us. Not only can you not fool people with your meticulously chosen words, but you’re painting over an awesome, quirky person inside that is much more interesting and thoughtful and relatable and endearingly flawed than the face you try to present.
Being perfect is never awesome. Even when you’re good at pleasing and saying and doing the right thing and being on everyone’s good side, you’ll never be anyone’s best friend this way or most valuable employee or anything worth mentioning at all, really. We connect with people through our flaws and quirks and screw ups, and succeed when we find out all the ways we did everything wrong the first five hundred times and learn to not let it crush us. Let yourself be the one who laughs too loud or tells the inappropriate joke or starts five different businesses and fails at all of them before the sixth one succeeds. It’s much braver and more admirable to risk your self at every turn than hide behind a veneer of perfection. You won’t be everyone’s best friend or every idea a success, but maybe in the mess you’ll find one or two of the best friends you could ever have and have one good idea out of hundred that makes all the humiliation and failure worth it. The most terrifying thing to be is yourself, and yet it’s the only way to truly live.
Originally published on Aud Comments. Republished with permission.
As well as a member of OK Nerdy Girls, Audrey Lentz is a poet, creative writer, and freelance writer and editor. On her blog, she writes about feminist issues, literature, and current events. Follow her on Twitter @audrey_lentz