“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” (Rita Mae Brown)
Mistakes are a given. Over a lifetime, each of us does and says countless things that wound, that embarrass us or others, and that we deeply regret. It is to be hoped, though, that the stupid things we do in our teens and twenties aren’t the same stupid things we do in our forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond.
By the time we reach those later decades, we’ve not only grown beyond our earlier transgressions, but perhaps also learned to let go of the chagrin we carry over those mistakes from our youth.
The good thing about aging is that we get better at learning from our mistakes. Of course, we make new ones, fresh ones, whoppers. Unless we refuse to venture out or try anything new, we will still make mistakes. The only way to avoid them is to hunker down and sidestep all risk, which means also avoiding delight, wonder, and discovery.
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” (Anna Quindlen)
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein
The incomparable Neil Gaiman usually posts a New Year’s message as one year closes and another opens. I love those annual wishes. They are inspiring messages of hope and optimism for the year ahead. You can read many of them here. I was thinking recently about a few lines from his 2011 New Year’s edict: “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes . . . . Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before.” (Read the full message here.)
I think we often undervalue our mistakes. We try hard not to make them, and when we do make one, we often avoid thinking about it and perhaps even deny that we’ve erred. Do we fear others will think less of us if we are not perfect or if we admit our imperfection . . . or will we think less of ourselves?
Perfectionism is a terrible burden—and not something we should strive for. Gaiman further says, “…if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world….”