4 Ways to Embrace Failure & Debunk Perfection

4 Ways to Embrace Failure and Debunk Perfection

progress rubble stairs growth path

Growth is a Process & I’m in Progress

Have you ever seen in nature that one species of plant, that as soon as it drops its seed {{BAM}} it’s full grown?  What about the animal with four legs and feathers …I forget its name… it gives birth to adult babies? (Quite amazing really.) Ever seen that?


Me neither.

And we won’t.  Because living things have a growth process that they naturally adhere to.  Little to big.  Zygote to Great-Grandma. Immaturity to Maturity (in most people).  Dependence to Independence.  Etcetera.

unfurl growth success perfect

In us humans, growth happens physically, mentally and spiritually. And, while some growth climaxes and then seems to revert, growth in other areas only seems to reach its pinnacle at death.

We can agree on this, right? (I told you we would get along well!)

Expectation Amnesia

Then why, strive as we may, is there the expectation that we will ever arrive at perfection this side of eternity?  I guess this is really more of a problem when we judge the perfection of ourselves and others.

Now, it’s beneficial to aim high and better yourself; even a mark of brilliance and grit to exceed in a skill through practice and hard work. And, it is even good to have high standards that drive excellence out of others.

But to expect perfection of people that are in the process of growing is to set up a domino effect of disappointment and despair.  This applies to what you expect from others as well as what you expect of yourself.

Michael J. Fox sums it up well when he says,

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”

As a recovering perfectionist, I can attest that my high expectations often failed to keep in mind that a person is not yet a perfect being.  That everyone is still in the process of growing in most aspects, and will not be faultless 100% of the time. Surely, I know this, but I experience expectation amnesia a lot of the time. It goes to develop frustration in me as I see failure as a condition and not an opportunity.  It incites despair in myself or someone I love as they feel they can never measure up. Sadness.

There are different kinds of failure.

One type of failure is real failure: where we fall short of what we are truly capable of – we know it, others know it.  This kind disappoints and hurts but usually motivates us toward pulling up our boot straps, or our big-girl britches, to try again.  Another kind is phony failure.  This is when being sold on the lies of perfection, we fail to meet unrealistic expectations.  This kind, if we’re not keen to it, can make us feel worthless, hopeless and kill one’s spirit.

People, especially children, naturally aim to please others.  All are innately inclined to do a job well, and most make honest efforts.  No one ever wants to fail, but it happens; and, it is as natural as falling leaves.  Failure can be a beautiful teacher.  It causes suffering, and through all suffering comes refinement.  Therefore, if seen in the correct light, failure will usually refine the dross out of its subject, and what is left is more pure.

cruible melting metal refined dross

J.K. Rowling has attained success other authors have little known.  She has achieved in the eyes of society.  It’s interesting, though, that she has described herself as “the biggest failure she knew”.  In a 2008 commencement address she gave at Harvard University she said,

“Failure meant a stripping away of the essential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and I began to direct all my energies to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive… and so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Truth. Period.

Honestly, it is a failure in remembering our common process of growth that has made failure taboo.  We wouldn’t buy into any of the deceptions that are being sold to us if we simply remembered that we are in progress.

For most, however, our vision becomes clouded quickly in the storm of information about us these days. We are fed erroneous appearances, and sold on that seemingly perfect {insert: family, job, house, child, wardrobe, body, education, yada, yada, yada}. Thus, our vision, as a common people, has been warped. We don’t know what truth looks like any longer. Consequently, there are masses that live in fear of not being perfect, and experience anxiety of what it might bring professionally, socially, and personally.


We have become a faux-utopian culture, yet again, whose premier citizens pretend they have arrived at blissful perfection. In this environment, phony perfection and phony failure have a devastating and shameful stigma; a potential shame that transcends the workplace to the nursery.  We test everything in the name of progress, and label everyone who doesn’t make the cut.  Therefore, all too often, when someone falls short, instead of it being an enriching experience, it is injurious to the person.  This kind of injury can change a person’s belief and hope, and it is a cause of brokenness (click to read what I’ve said about brokenness).

The external weight that being imperfect carries these days has such debilitating ramifications that it is stifling great minds and imagination, creating a ruinous mindset.  In reality, utopia, which, although it might be something to aim for, is absolutely unrealistic.  As a result, it is that society, made up of crushed persons, that ends up failing.

Now, I do not like to fail in my own or other’s expectations of me. But, when I inevitably do, it incites me to try harder, try something different, change, or hone my ingenuity.  Interestingly, however, I had never felt like a failure until I was made to feel like one. In those times, I equated my worth to how perfect I could be, what others thought of me, how much I pleased everyone, and how much I achieved.  What a plague; what deception.

Edison Light Bulb idea mindset thinking

I have since come to think along the lines of Thomas Edison.  He is a man of great failure, yet of great success.  When asked about one of his particular failures, he says,

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

In actuality, only giving up, remaining idle, and believing what the world has to say are true failures.  All other failure is just progress in our growth. This is a healthy mindset toward growth and one you and I should live out.  So with renewed vision, here are:

4 simple habits we can adopt to combat lies of perfection and failure:


Remember: to see failure as good.  Going through the fire is meant to refine you.

Remember: to not get caught up in perceptions.  You, me and everyone else suffers in some way, every day.  You, me and every single person fails, every day.  Perfection can not be attained this side of eternity.

Remember: you were chosen, intentionally and in Love, to have life. There is great need for and purpose in You. See yourself and others in this way.

Be Encouraged, Be an Encourager

Now that you remember that everyone fails, and that it can be used for good – help.  Be the one someone can turn to for a smile, no matter their state. Give them Truth and a kind word.  Let them know that failure is another way to success, as it’s been said.  Believe in them, but don’t expect perfection.  Look for mentors that will be the same for you.

Michael Jordan, after being cut from his high school basketball team, remembers his mom’s encouragement:

“She said that the best thing I could do is to prove to the coach that he had made a mistake … leaving my disappointment behind, I started to improve my performance.”

We all know him know for his performance.  Don’t make someone feel like a failure; encourage them to do the hard work to improve.

Don’t act perfect

Break down your façade. Be as transparent about your successes and failures as you can relatably be. This is not only good for relationships, but for your humbleness as well.  Cultivate an atmosphere of understanding. Doing so will simultaneously make others more comfortable, and take you beyond a comfortable veneer.  Besides, it’s enslaving to try to conceal all our flaws.

Share knowledge and wisdom

Yes, you know a lot and you have Truth to share.  There is someone out there that needs to know what you have learned.  Have a conversation with those seeking. Be a bringer of light into a dark sadness in the world; for it is only in sharing truth that truth can be tapped, and, therefore, spread.

It is my prayer and hope that, if you have ever had this errant view of perfection and failure, that you are now set free of it.  Remembering: we are growing, processing and in progress.



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4 ways to embrace failure and debunk perfection

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