The Mutually Exclusive Self

If you haven’t guessed already, I process through the written word. Which is basically the reason for the existence of this blog, and my old one (guys, I’ve been blogging for SIX YEARS. I’m not old enough to have a half-dozen anniversary for my blog!). Anyways, I also process through extended e-mail conversations. It was during one of these electronic epistles that I found myself typing this absurdity:

“If I don’t do something perfectly the first time, I feel like I failed. Even if I go back and make it better, it still doesn’t feel good enough because it wasn’t PERFECT. THE FIRST TIME.”

When I see my words staring back at me, I realize I’m probably certifiable. Because I would also eagerly and honestly tell you that at 22 years of age, I don’t know everything (or much of anything), and I love learning new skills and perfecting old ones, and I want to be a life-long learner. Which is mutually exclusive with viewing imperfection at the first try as failure.

This isn’t a new internal paradox, of course. I was that sickeningly annoying college student that actually wasn’t happy unless I got 100%. It didn’t matter if I got an A, I wasn’t satisfied until I could prove that I had absolutely mastered (or memorized) the material. And once I hit the 100% level–I wanted more. See, this sick cycle NEVER ENDS. If there was extra credit on the table, I’d better get over 100%, otherwise, I was a failure. I’m sharing this in the hopes that there are others suffering from the same incompatible mindsets: trying to learn and grow while accepting nothing short of perfection.

If you’re like me, can we make a pinky promise together? That the next time we aren’t perfect in our first attempts, we’ll stop telling ourselves we’re failures? We are learners. We are brave souls willing to make mistakes to do better next time. Even if better isn’t perfection.

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