No one wants to fail. In particular, no one wants to fail multiple times.
But everyone does.
I, for once, have failed so many times, I could not believe how unlucky I must be. There must be a higher being up there who enjoy looking down at me stumbling around.
So what can we do about it?
It is not something we can wish away. It has been with us since we were born and will continue to live with us until we die; unwilling to let go.
Well, if we cannot get rid of it, maybe we can live with it. After all, it’s not like we have any choice, right?
Let’s see if we can get a new perspective on failure. Then it might not be so bad. Perhaps we can even embrace it as part of our life.
Fear of imperfection (or fear of not being in control?)
Each of us has an inherent desire to be excellent and perfect. We do not want to make mistakes. It is just natural. We know there is a consequence for every failure we make. So we strive for perfection.
There is nothing wrong with that.
The problem starts when we get stressed and depressed for making mistakes and failing to be perfect. It begins when our mind cannot handle even our tiniest, littlest slip.
We will see in the following section of this post that it is very reasonable to make mistakes and to fail regularly. The deeper issue here is not our inability to be perfect. It is our fear of imperfection, which often leads to fear of not being in control.
‘What ifs’ questions are the most common questions we ask ourselves. These questions prompt our mind and poke our insecurity. We want to eliminate ‘what ifs’ and turn them into ‘what will’.
Some of us might think, ‘hey, I know I am not perfect’. You see, in a way, all of us are perfectionists, each at our acceptable level.
And in a way, each of us suffers from stress when failing to maintain our level of perfection. Because imperfection means there is something somewhere that could go wrong and we dare not think of the consequences.
Striving for perfection is great, as long as we also surrender to our inability to control everything.
Action and control
Let’s dig deeper into this topic of control. Admittedly, we do have power over certain things. We control the water flow via the water tap. We manage to drive the car on the way to work. We decide what clothes we wear and what shoes we use.
If we can control those elements, why can’t we expand our abilities and manage more complex things like our job security, money in the bank, or maybe the weather? This predicament is where our surrender to our inability to control everything comes into place. We, human beings, are so limited, yet we tend to think we are not.
Do you know that only 4% of the universe is made up of ordinary observable matters? The other 96% is made up of matters that none of us can see, detect, or even comprehend? (ref: What’s 96 Percent of The Universe Made Of?)
We are so small, and yet we take so much pride in our ability to control our choice of meals and clothes. Just because we can do such puny exercises does not mean we are destined to be exalted for grander destiny.
Perhaps, we are where we should be. Probably, we ought to make the best of what we can do and leave the rest to God. Because, in reality, we are never in control of everything, or anything.
So what if we are at the mercy of some God for our life on earth. What about those that we have abilities to control? How come we still make mistakes and fail at them?
Ok, I have bad news and good news.
The good news is, although we are small, it seems like we are well taken care of. Think about it. The whole universe works in perfect sync. Our earth rotates at the right speed around the sun. And then we also have the correct type of gas (read: oxygen) to breathe. Our sun is at the right distance from the earth that it does not burn the planet, yet it gives enough heat source for us.
The bad news is, we are also imperfect. Sometimes we fail to do even those little things like walking to the park or driving to work. We are like small babies that keep bumping into walls (at least some babies know where they are going).
Initially, this very thought depressed me. But upon the realization of my vulnerability, I am so glad that someone up there is happy to go all the trouble to keep me alive.
Wait, so there is a God? Now that is for you to decide.
Learn through failure
So far, it seems like we are nothing but weak little humans. Maybe we are, but if we are, then we want to be the best weak little humans we can be (I hope that statement is both humbling and encouraging).
Now, back to our habits of failing. Yes, it is true we fail regularly, and we fail all the time. At the same time, we also learn a valuable lesson every time we fail. Many failures precede significant progress in humanity. It is uncommon for us mere mortals to learn anything without failing at it first.
What about those things we learn from our parents and school? Isn’t that the knowledge that prevents us from making the same mistakes?
Yes, yes, they do prevent us from going through the same ordeal. But remember, it was someone else’s failures in the past that gave us that valuable knowledge. So again, failures lead to learning.
You see, it is ok to strive for perfection, as long as we realize and accept our vulnerability and inability to control everything (or anything).
“Failure is the necessary evil in our never-ending pursuit of perfection.” — Fredy Namdin
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