Column: Dealing with failure is part of growing up
I grew up as an only child. Not just an only child, but that only child. The one who always had great grades, was involved in everything and could do no wrong by her parents.
But my biggest flaw, I think, was that I never really learned how to screw up.
I consider a larger portion of this year to be a screwup on my part. And I’m not saying that in a “pity me, tell me I didn’t screw up” kind of way. I’m not sad about it. I’m actually glad it happened.
I guess a big part of growing up is learning how to make mistakes and how to come back from them a better person, or at least to try to be.
I’ve learned a lot more from screwing up this year than I have in my past two years of college. I’ve learned how to keep my ego in check and how to apologize, even when I know I did my best. I’ve learned that no decision I ever make will please everyone. And no matter how hard I try, not everyone is going to like me or see things from my point of view.
All in all, I’ve learned that even when I do my best, sometimes it’s still not good enough. Sometimes I still didn’t do or say the right thing. And that’s OK. Great, even.
There’s something really powerful about realizing you messed up, learning from it, forgiving yourself for it and moving on — to realize that even though I make a lot of mistakes, I am not defined by them. I’m defined by how I react to them.
I hate to sound like a cheesy motivational poster, but if you aren’t making mistakes every day, you’re not doing anything worthwhile. You’re not learning.
And this year has been a whole heaping helping of “I’m still learning.” It also came with a side of “I’m sorry, I’ll try to do better next time.”
And don’t get me wrong, it was really hard. It sucked. There were a lot of days where I didn’t want to come into work, and a lot of nights when I was up until 3 a.m. worrying about things that I probably should have just let go.
But I still did it. I didn’t quit. I still tried my best each and every day. And I think — or at least, I hope — I’m better for it.
I’ll take disappointment and defeat as a sign that I’m trying something outside of my comfort zone, that I’m pushing to be a better version of myself tomorrow than I am today.
It doesn’t take much character to be awesome at something and move on. But I’ve found a lot of freedom and a lot of courage in learning to admit that I’m not perfect. I have faults, a lot of them. And I’m working on it.
I don’t know that I’m qualified to give life advice — but if I was to give any, it would be this:
You’re never going to stop making mistakes. Therefore, if you can be anything, you should try to be really good at screwing up. Somewhere along the way, you’ll probably start being good at life, too.
So screw up. And screw up well. It’s the only way you’ll ever get better.