Every Wednesday afternoon for the past ten weeks, I have been attending online training in Intentional Peer Support. I’ve learnt so much and I’m really looking forward to sharing some of my thoughts in a series of blog posts inspired by the things I’ve learnt and have since been reflecting upon.
So the first: moving from fear of failure to considering other possibilities! Part of the course has involved doing group activities including role plays, where two people take part in the role play and a third gives feedback. Any feedback given during the sessions takes the form of saying what worked well and then exploring other possibilities. At first, I wasn’t convinced that simply changing ‘suggestions for improvement’ to ‘other possibilities’ would make much of a difference, but it really has for me! This is why:
As much as I’m better at managing it nowadays, I’m still very much someone who can let perfectionism get the better of me. I like things to be perfect and if they’re not, I can get frustrated with myself. Logically, I know that ‘perfect’, at least my idea of perfect, does not exist, but that still doesn’t stop my brain from insisting that I get things 100% right 100% of the time. This has often meant that I resist trying something that I might not do well at because I’m so fearful of the possibility that I might ‘fail’. At times, I have also struggled with receiving feedback from others because it somehow felt like I was being criticised and sometimes even attacked. (Logically, I know this wasn’t the case but that’s just how it felt).
The thing I started to realise was that by not welcoming feedback and not accepting that I didn’t always have the answer, I was not allowing myself to grow and develop. That’s when the idea of ‘other possibilities’ comes in. I’m slowly allowing myself to ask others for feedback on everyday things like asking my mum what she liked about the soup I made and her suggestions of other possibilities for next time. By introducing this concept into the ‘smaller’ and ‘more simple’ things, I have been able to work up to receiving feedback on what may feel like ‘bigger’ things, such as my performance at work. I also try to do a self-reflection. What went well, and what are other possibilities for next time? With these two lots of feedback, I can then weigh up what I could try keeping the same, I what I could change. I can see this working in so many different aspects of my life. Playing squash, work, baking, music, even prayer.
I’ve found this process to be quite a liberating one. It means that I no longer feel stuck. Instead, I know that I don’t have to do things perfectly the first time, but can build up from where I currently am. I have also felt less pressurised, because I no longer put an intense amount of pressure on myself to make sure nothing goes ‘wrong’. In fact, I’ve been finding that sometimes, things haven’t gone how I wanted them to, but actually the outcome has been better! To use walking as an example: I set off hoping to follow a certain track on a walk but must have taken the ‘wrong’ path. I decide to carry on and what I did eventually come to was a beautiful stream, the sun shining and the birds singing such beautiful tunes. It wasn’t where I had planned to go, but I’m glad I ended up there. When I did eventually find the other track another time, it wasn’t as beautiful as the place I discovered ‘accidentally’.
Personally, I don’t believe these things are ‘accidental’, as I feel God is guiding us. I often try to pray about this area of my life too. I pray that I may be given wisdom to recognise these other possibilities and that I may learn to trust God more. I pray for the courage and humility to hand over the control to God, and let him lead the way rather than me trying to control everything. I pray all this whilst accepting that I am only human, and sometimes I will fall. So when that happens, I pray for God to lift me up.
Of course, I still do and always will aim for the best I can, but I accept that my current ‘best’ may be my future’s ‘mediocre’, and that’s ok. So if you’re feeling like nothing but ‘perfect’ is good enough, maybe you could try to recognise the times when you don’t do as well as you had hoped, and see them as opportunities to learn rather than moments of failure. It takes time and perseverance, but it has certainly been a liberating process for me, and I’d love to hear how you get on! Also, if you have any tips or thoughts around perfectionism and self-improvement, I’d love to hear from you!
Onwards and upwards,