To give yourself permission to succeed, you also have to give yourself permission to fail. The truth is that real life has mistakes in it. All creativity, live performance, all real exchanges between people and anything that is authentic, will go wrong now and then. Even the most experienced ritualist will make mistakes. Real life has no airbrushes to hide the flaws, no photoshop to take out the wobbly bits, no editor to polish it. Life is lived in one take, with no pausing, rewinding and redoing options. If we hold ourselves to the standards of polished, professional media, we will be unable to act.
Mistakes are great teachers, if we let ourselves have that opportunity. It does us no harm to be reminded that we are flawed, fallible works in progress. If we can learn to smile at our own errors and other peoples shortcomings too, life is gentler and happier.
The first song you sing, the first dance you learn, the first poem you write will not be the best you are capable of. Nor should we expect them to be. It’s impossible to learn without accepting what we don’t know. The space to be flawed is also the space to grow. Permission to be inadequate now is permission to be much better than this in a year’s time.
If we don’t have to be perfect right now, we are better placed to enjoy whatever we are doing. Experiences become less competitive, we aren’t constantly judging ourselves to see if we made the grade, which makes it easier to appreciate what you can do. If we are only allowed to be happy once we’re perfect, we are not going to be happy in this lifetime. Permission to fail is also permission to enjoy where you are, including the view of the heights you might yet climb to, and the path behind that is everything you’ve done.
It is so easy to hit one setback, one failure and assume that’s it – you won’t ever be good enough at this thing so should give up on it. Permission to fail is permission to strive, to push beyond your apparent limits into something better.
Failure is an enormous challenge. It hits a person deep in their sense of self, it knocks confidence, feeds doubt and anxiety, leaves us exposed, humiliated, hurt and unsure of what we are doing. It takes courage to push past a setback and have another go, but without the willingness to do that, it’s virtually impossible to achieve anything. In failure we can find our courage, our strength and the depth and breadth of our own souls. Permission to fail, is permission to live.