The perfection myth

The bad news is you need to make mistakes in order to learn and master a skill. The good news is you don’t have to be perfect and have it all together to be on a quality learning journey in life. We all need to give ourselves and others a break instead of expecting perfection!

This week I was reflecting on this subject particularly in regards to teenagers. As parents, and onlookers to the parenting process, we can be quite critical of teenagers and expect them to have 'an old head on young shoulders' but no, that doesn’t work.

Learning life skills requires experimentation and reflection on experience. Those experiences can be quite messy. Many mistakes and errors in judgement are made on the learning journey before maturity and understanding occur.

As parents, and other significant adults in the life of a child, perhaps we could be less about high expectations of maturity and more about guiding and assisting our teenagers on their own journey in life. We have valuable maturity and wisdom to guide and assist with our young people’s actions and decisions. In this way we can help to reduce danger and enduring negative consequences.

Letting go and letting young people learn from life by living it, along with the consequences, can be quite daunting and anxiety producing for parents. To help manage our own anxiety it is useful to understand that the natural flow of life is ups and downs regardless of our 'goodness', our behavior, or, our intentions.

Each of life’s ups and downs, whether small or large, provides learning opportunities. Guess what? It is the downs that provide the most opportunity for growth. This is because the experience shakes us out of business as usual. These experiences challenge us to face what is not working for us in those circumstances and find a way through it. We incorporate this learning into life skills and build our resilience for similar experiences in the future.

If we interfere with the ups and downs of life for our young people, we are robbing them of valuable experience that they need to build the skills for life. In fact, when we resist the ups and downs in our own lives, we also rob ourselves of learning and growth and generate extra stress and anxiety though our resistance to the natural flow of life.

Our worth or value as a person does not come through excellent performance. We may get a temporary boost of self esteem or the approval of others in those circumstances that feels nice. Our intrinsic worth as a person is constant and not dependent on performance. This understanding that our worth is not at stake, helps us to take in information from experiences and to learn and grow throughout our entire life span – because we will never know it all.

So, relax. Life doesn’t come with a manual. It’s okay to learn as you go, whatever your age.