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Gemma’s Gem of the Week: Making Room for Mistakes

Gemma’s Gem of the Week: Making Room for Mistakes

When you hear the word “mistake”, what are some of the first things that come to mind? For me, lately I think of how they are something we’re taught to avoid at all costs. Let’s challenge this thought – because doesn’t it seem counterintuitive? Spending so much time avoiding the very thing that is already taking so much time to avoid? “Don’t think of a pink elephant”, right? 

Here’s another question. How much more do you think we’d be able to accomplish and relax if we let go of this constant, overbearing worry of “making mistakes?” How much clearer do you think we’d feel in our daily lives? 

I find it ironic that, considering you need to grow and learn in order to become better at any given profession, our society shames those who are starting out as less than “perfect;” or, in other words, “less than these unattainable standards we set upon ourselves.” That to me is the equivalence of telling students they should be entering school with all the knowledge in the world, prior to taking any of their subjects and courses. How can you grow in a given profession, job, company, career, etc, if you’re expected to enter it perfectly and flawlessly from the beginning?

That underlying fear of “screwing up” can have a detrimental impact on not only how we feel about these jobs, but how much we trust we give ourselves. The more we fear being human, the less we learn to trust ourselves.

Let’s shift the route of this conversation a bit. When you look at our dating culture, you see a lot of perfectionism oozing in every corner. You want to swipe with the “right” match. You want to say the right thing. You want the ideal “first impressions.” You want the script that matches society’s idea of a “perfect relationship.”

We’re being taught to fall into these patterns that not only don’t align with who we are, but don’t set the foundation for a genuine, authentic connection for our actual needs. We need to stop defining relationships as “perfect” and “materialized”, and instead start finding the beauty in authenticity. Sometimes, these standards can be so distracting that it feels like we’re limited in establishing connections around us; but this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

My students pointed out recently that people can oftentimes make things far more complicated than they need to be. And I wholeheartedly agree. Life doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it. I firmly believe that we are capable of establishing far more relationships with each other than we realize, and if we would just let go of these outside pressures, we could achieve far more authentic, genuine connections with one another. 

There is also an entire gateway of communication that is opened upon accepting mistakes as a natural piece of humanity. If we were to go easier on one another and leave room for learning and growth, the possibilities to better educate one another would increase greatly. There is far too much emphasis on cancel culture that instills fear into people, making people feel unable to speak up, ask questions, or take action. If we want to build allies and be better overall, we must leave the space in order to do so; and that includes understanding that things will not always be perfect, and are not supposed to be. Breaking free of these expectations can be easier said than done, but it is also much harder to sit in an impossible expectation than it is to unlearn the mindset that told us to work so hard to reach the unreachable.

Envision life without the constant, nagging fear of making a mistake. What if we welcomed mistakes as old friends here to assist us? There are countless, beautiful pieces of life that exist today created purely by accident. Let’s not scorn the very elements that gift us with far more beauty and lessons than we sometimes realize exist. 

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Gemma Farquhar is the writer of "Gemma's Gem of the Week" and author of "The Shape of Something New." She is passionate about the future of storytelling and welcomes all ages to her column.

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