I am a recovering perfectionist. I think, even if we don’t identify ourselves as perfectionists, all of us long for a higher standard in some way. I grew up in a family of high achievers. I cried over B’s on math tests. I sulked all day after losing a soccer game. As I grew up and grew into more epic failures, I wondered how we could make peace with a world that simply isn’t perfect and never will be?

Rename Failure

Learning to let go of perfect means learning to embrace “failures.” We need to rename them, to see them as a part of our journeys, not in a cliche way, but in a real way, with depth. We need to understand that in order to harness our full potential we have to fail and we need to be OK with it.

If we rename our failures, we start to shift our language around what the world sees as a failure and shape it into what it was for us. We can regain power over failures by calling them what they are. 

For example, I tried a job I wasn’t very good at. It drained me, and I learned quickly that I wasn’t the ideal fit from my frustrated corner of the office. Quitting that job seemed like a failure, but I saw it differently. It showed me what I wasn’t made to do and it redirected me.

Failure is actually feedback, feedback that helps us to grow and develop. As a result of my failure, I’ve learned how to meet deadlines. I successfully showed up every day. I accomplished tasks that were outside of my comfort zone. I walked away when I knew it wasn’t a good fit. Then I went and tried something new. It was a win for me, and I would do it all over again to let that “failure” bring me into the position I’m in today.

Learn Out Loud

If we expect to start with perfection, we will never try anything new and we will never reach our full potential. To harness our creativity and find the specific individual calling on our lives, we must start learning out loud. Learning out loud often results in failures. But when we feel confident and comfortable to start learning how to play the guitar, knowing that we won’t be able to keep a tune for weeks or even months, it gives the people around us permission to learn out loud too.

It is a lot more human to try something and have to learn and grow than to pretend to be an overnight success. We all love rooting for the underdog. So why don’t we cheer ourselves on in our own heads when we feel like the underdog?

Trying something new or letting ourselves start something means we will probably have to mess up a bit, sometimes in public. When I started to share more of my creativity that I kept private with the world, I didn’t find people who were frustrated with my work not being up to par yet.  I found a lot of cheerleaders. I found dreamers and people who were encouraged to boldly chase their dreams because when one of us starts to live a more brave life, other people around us see it and feel inspired to do so too.

Maybe you aren’t feeling great about how your passion or hobby isn’t perfected yet, but what if you sharing it or going after it inspired your friends to do the same? Maybe your ability to start something will inspire the people around you to start something too, and the result of a more innovative and creative world is worth the risk of imperfections.

Taking the risk to move forward and move towards those desires we have is always a great accomplishment. In order to do it, we have to get over our pride and let our yearning for more and better drive us towards our goals.

Stop Comparing

There will always be someone better than you. You’ve probably heard your mom say this before, but it’s so true. When we compare ourselves to people who have been pursuing something for longer than us, it squelches our creativity and allows us to buy into the lie that perfection is required to start.

I had a nice camera and an interest in photography. What stopped me from starting? Instagram. There were so many talented photographers, who had huge followings and successful businesses, so why in the world did I think my slightly out of focus, overexposed photos had any right to grace my feed?

Perfectionism will tell you that you need to be the best to start, but it’s a lie. We have to admit to ourselves that when we are beginners at something, it won’t be the best photo on the internet, but that shouldn’t stop us from starting. We have to admit that our work, or whatever it is we are trying for the first time, won’t be as good as we want it to be. But next time it will be better. And after that? Even better.  We can’t compare our first try at throwing pottery to someone else’s successful pottery business. Instead, we have to let go of the idea that right at the beginning we will be the best, and instead allow other people’s work to inspire us and invite us to become better.

It’s great to be challenged and urged to continue to grow, but only if that doesn’t stop us from starting.

I believe you have something incredible to offer to the world, and it’s unique and important. It might not be perfect right now.  And I hate to break it to you, but it probably won’t be perfect ever. But don’t let that stop you from pursuing it. Let this be your invitation to start chasing after that dream you have. Rename your failures, learn out loud to tell others they can too, and know that the beginning is just the beginning, so it’ll look like the beginning and will only get better every time you try.

Molly Wilcox

Molly Wilcox is a lover of Jesus, mountains, and poetry. She almost always has a library book in her purse. She’s married to her finance obsessed husband and a devoted dog mom to her goldendoodle puppy. Nashville is home, but they take every opportunity to seek out adventure whether it’s across the country or a new coffee shop down the road.

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