“The core of your true self is never lost. Let go of all the pretending and the becoming you’ve done just to belong. Curl up with your rawness and come home. You don’t have to find yourself; you just have to let yourself in.”—d. antoinette foy
You feel unsettled. Living feels like more like a chore instead of enjoyable. Nothing excites you. Yet within all that dullness, some small spark within you senses there is something more. You aren’t sure what is missing or even know how to go after it. Yet that little spark within you is pushing to come out. So how do you go about moving towards that best self if everything right now just feels blah and no direction seems like THE direction?
I managed to beat the crowds by fast walking to the end of the art exhibit. While the early morning crowds at the museum lingered within the first rooms of the special exhibit (tied to their electronic guides who started with picture #1 – thank goodness!), I managed to find myself in front of 4 awe striking paintings.
Purely by myself, and under the watchful eyes of the museum guards, I stood in the center of the room. I stood smack center in front of each drawing. I walked within one nose distance away from the canvas and looked at these million dollar pieces of art.
And that’s when I noticed it.
It took me a while, but once I noticed the first mistake, I looked at all of the other paintings in the exhibit and noticed mistakes in ALL of the canvases.
By the packed house in the first rooms of the exhibit, it would be fair to state that this artist was well renown, respected, and highly valued.
Yet on each of his paintings, I noticed drips of paint that he had not attempted to either clean up or cover over. I noticed, when I was standing an eyelash away from the canvas, that he had layered multiple paint colors on top of each other, as if he had tried something first and it hadn’t quite worked out, so he had painted over it as many times as necessary until he got the image he wanted. (Why not take a page from his book and dare to be true to ourselves?)
Proportions, whether of human or of rooms, were off. No ruler or T-square was used to draw the corners of rooms in the drawings.
Perhaps, looked at it another way: freedom to try something, fail, and keep going.
Collectors of his paintings, and museums, surely don’t mind these mistakes – they are merely seen, and valued, as this artist’s interpretation of the world.
And as you travel forward on the path to your best self, that’s the first thing you have to do.
Get comfortable with mistakes
Life, the living of it nor anything else for that matter, isn’t perfect. You may hear that and nod your head, as you have in times past, and say “yeah, yeah, perfection can’t be achieved; I gotta be okay with making mistakes.”
But I want you to stop and really think about that statement – and think about how you punish yourself for making mistakes, diligently repeating to yourself that you can’t afford to make any more mistakes or that you were foolish to try something that failed.
Becoming truly acceptant of mistakes – not only of mistakes that have been done in the past but also of future mistakes – is the necessary first action item that needs to happen within your heart and mind before you start on the path to your best self.
Attempting to move forward towards your best self without being okay with mistakes will keep you within the same constraints you currently find yourself in.
Why? Because the fear of making mistakes, or looking foolish for making a mistake, is what keeps us within the constraints of what others feel is right for us, and more importantly, it is the constraint we use on ourselves when something is new or just a little too scary, unfamiliar, or outside our current comfort zone.
We were once expert mistake makers!
Do you remember being perfect in your childhood?
It’s not a trick question. You can’t remember being perfect because you weren’t – because for you to grow and learn, you NEEDED to make mistakes.
Interesting, isn’t it? The way your brain developed, the way you learned language, or learned how to walk, or ride a bike, or eats solid food, is through trial and ERROR. You needed to purposely make mistakes so that your brain could be trained on how to do things well.
As kids, we didn’t think about making a mistake before trying something. And making a mistake didn’t hold us back from trying something. We went ahead and tried, and learned, and tweaked our approach, and tried again, and retweaked until we did something with ease.
We kept making mistakes because we purely didn’t know any better (yes, those scolding words from our elders actually do make sense). We were building up our dictionary of mistakes throughout our childhood, by adding to our list of “things done right” and adding to our list of “mistakes – don’t do again.”
Yet at a certain point between childhood and adulthood, our list of mistakes became solidified, and for our own survival, we looked at that list, at that dictionary that we had created, and didn’t purposely make mistakes or take action on any of the items that were on the “mistakes – don’t do again” list.
We stopped trying. Mistakes became so big, so overwhelming, that we became fearful of adding anything to that mistake list.
But that’s where we have erred.
Making mistakes is a gift – accept it with open hands
"Failure is a great teacher, and, if you are open to it, every mistake has a lesson to offer." —Oprah
When we stopped trying new things, we also stopped learning or challenging ourselves. We find ourselves on the edge of something great and we stop, full brakes, because taking one more step is an unknown and God forbid, what if we make a mistake?
In adulthood, making mistakes is feared because there is so much we have to loose. I get it – we’ve worked hard to get where we are. Why would we willingly risk losing any that?
Yet making mistakes allows us to also see what we are losing out on.
As you start your journey to your best self, truly accepting mistakes is the first key to releasing your best self. Your best self has been kept hidden, primarily for fear of making a mistake, of looking like a fool, of making the mistake of not fitting in.
Just to set the record straight, what I’m advocating here and now is to truly be okay with mistakes –and to start making little mistakes.
Start getting comfortable again with trial and ERROR – with trying different things, old things, and being okay with not getting the whole hang of it on the first try. Start getting comfortable with pushing just a little bit more beyond your comfort zone: something looks good and right now AND what would happen if I added this other thing to it?
Go ahead. Try it out.
I love to draw (may be you guessed that by my museum story at the begging of this post). I love it just for myself. What I love about drawing is just the exercise of it, of putting color on a canvas and mixing, and seeing what comes from the paint.
It sure as heck isn’t perfection! And yet I would try to add some “normal” elements to my art, so that if someone looked at it, they could recognize a tree or a human form. But I’ve never felt a 100% right there.
Therefore, I’m committing to making “errors” in my art: I’ll get a small piece of canvas painting to a point where I feel okay with it (I may like the colors, shapes, or whatever). Then I take a deep breath….and I paint over it or erase it or add water and totally distort it.
Some results have been pretty fun to see and others have been pure recycle this and add it to the fire bin. And while it was hard to do that on the first couple of art pieces I tried, it’s gotten easier to make the decision to purposely “make a mistake.”
The anxiety around making mistakes slowly decreases with each attempt. And some of the pieces that I’m ending up with, I’m getting to be a 100% right with how they look. (And I'm not stopping at making "mistakes" in my art. Check out some of my other mistake-learned lessons here.)
Now that’s the benefit of trial and error: you get one step closer to your best self AND you get one step closer with accepting your best self.
What are your hang-ups around making mistakes? How do you think making mistakes can be beneficial to your personal growth journey? Chime in on the comments below.
I love reflecting on purposeful, thought-provoking life experiences and turning them into life purposes. I am a writer dedicated to sharing life-lessons to empower women to attain their best life by turning experiences into passion-driven action.
When I'm not studying life, I'm intentionally living it. I enjoy art (admiring it and creating it), nature, and I'm a beginner sewer in the attempt to sew my own unique clothes.
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