The Beauty of Failure

Don’t let the internet rush you, no one is posting their failures.” – Wesley Snipes

The other day I failed for the second time to guess a Wordle and learned another life lesson as exemplified by this word game. By the way, no knowledge or affinity for Wordle is necessary to understand this life lesson but for anyone who hasn’t tried Wordle and is curious, here are the basics:

You have six tries to guess a five letter word. You are not given any information to start with but when you enter a guess, you are told if you have any right letters and they are green if correct in the right spot and yellow if they are used on the word but in the wrong spot. There is one word per day.

By the third guess I’d figured out the pattern was _ O _ E R

There were too many possible combinations – LOWER, MOVER, CODER, JOKER so I didn’t work out FOYER within the allotted 6 guesses.

But here’s what I noticed – it was WAY easier to fail the second time. The first time ended my 50 win streak and I was pierced, more than felt reasonable for a silly word game.

Noticing this, I think failing helps me shake the belief that I can be perfect. The longer streak that I had, the more brittle I became about not failing. It felt like there’s a longer way to fall, even if it’s just a silly word game.

It reminded me of a definition of perfection that Brené Brown provides in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. “Perfection is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame. It’s a shield. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it is the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.”

I’m not advocating practicing failing. But I am suggesting talking about it and laughing about it when we do. For me, it doesn’t change the impression of anyone around me who are well aware I’m not perfect. But it does penetrate my illusion that I think I can or have to maintain some persona that is impervious to failure. Even the fact that I have an ego still after years of meditating to find the Unity in life needs piercing.

So, thank you, Wordle. Not only for the two minutes of daily entertainment but a few good life lessons too!

(featured photo by Pexels)

Enjoying the Summer

We love because it’s the only true adventure.” – Nikki Giovanni

Summer is coming to an end. It’s the month of August, my nanny had to leave to continue with her work and education, school starts in three weeks and I’m feeling like I have to enjoy this last bit of summer, especially the long days I get to spend with my kids. But I have to work as well. So I feel this tear between should be enjoying and having to get it done. And if I really think about it, I realize that I feel that pull most of the time. I feel like I am supposed to be treasuring these days with my young kids. When I shared this feeling/fear with my friend, Emily, her reply was, “Having the pressure to enjoy everything in parenthood is not very helpful or realistic in my opinion.”

Right! Pressure to enjoy is definitely an oxymoron. Yet on the other side is the advice that I’ve been given so many times, “Enjoy this time, it goes so fast.” I’m old enough to be able to tick off entire decades of my life – my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s have all gone by and yet when I was a kid doesn’t seem all that long ago. Writing it down here I see that enjoying my kids while they are young can bleed into an effort to be the perfect mom. There is a fine line between mindfulness and perfectionism.

I think of every mountain I’ve climbed and what I remember of those trips. The first time I made it to the top of Mt. Rainier at 14,400 feet, I was so cold, I huddled in the lee of some snow and rocks with the other people that were on my rope who were also freezing. I managed to stand long enough to take a picture of a sea of clouds surrounding us and then we headed down. We’d spent 3 days getting to that one spot, spent 15 minutes on top and then carefully started back down. I remember some particulars about the route we took that day, especially the big scary parts but have forgotten most of my footsteps. But the feeling of trying, and of that step where I finally gained the summit, the comradery with teammates, the love of the outdoors, the presence of God in all of it travels with me wherever I go.

This gives me great comfort in my parenting because I think climbing and parenting share similar goals: to survive, to be present so as to take in as much of God’s creation as possible, and to participate in an adventure that changes you. It convinces me that I neither have to remember nor enjoy every moment, just the journey. I suspect that all my kids will remember from this young age is the feeling of it all. If I walk away from this stage of parenting remembering the feeling of trying, snapshots of the big milestones we reached, a deep relationship with my kids, a shared love of the outdoors, and the presence of God throughout it all, I’ll consider it a very successful adventure indeed.

Five Pieces of Writing that Inspired Me: #2 Self-Compassion

Wisdom is oft-times nearer when we stoop than when we soar.” – William Wordsworth

I’m a master at slicing and dicing things so that I have to be perfect even as I cut everyone else slack. Most recently it’s that as a single parent, I better have things totally dialed otherwise people will think I expect help. Before that it was because I was the only female in a group of mountain climbers, I couldn’t forget anything or be the last to have my pack on to leave camp or the other climbers wouldn’t want to have a woman in their group again. And before that it was because I was the only blonde in an electrical engineering class, I better get a good grade or be a disgrace to all blondes.

Reading the work of Brené Brown has shown me that I’m better off at using my energy to practice self compassion than to keep believing that I’m the one person that can’t make mistakes.

We don’t claim shame. You can’t believe how many times I’ve heard that! I know shame is a daunting word. The problem is that when we don’t claim shame, it claims us. And one of the ways it sneaks into our lives is through perfectionism.

As a recovering perfectionist and an aspiring good-enoughist, I’ve found it extremely helpful to bust some of the myths about perfectionism so that we can develop a definition that accurately captures what it is and what it does to our lives.

  • Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame. It’s a shief. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.
  • Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core about trying to earn approval and acceptance. Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way we adopt this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect. Healthy striving is self-focused – How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused – What will they think?

Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis. Life-paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It’s also all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes and disappointing others. It’s terrifying to risk when you’re a perfectionist; your self-worth is on the line.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown