– Emily Keller
Our society loves the self-made men, the geniuses, the CEOs and the ones whohave immeasurable talents. We hold these people in high regard, and it can feel like if we don’t have one major thing we excel at over others, we really aren’t worth that much.
I grew up in a very non-competitive household. My parents went to art school and highlighted the more abstract parts of life when raising us. I and my brothers were never expected to join sports teams or participate in more than one extracurricular activity, though we could and were encouraged if we showed interest. We could be and were bad at things. One skill my parents gave me as a child, and one I consider to be an extremely important skill, is how to accept failure, how to accept your shortcomings, and how to quit without feeling like a loser.
A l o t o f people I interact with daily have described me as “chill,” relaxed and generally unfazed by the harsher realities of life, such as bad marks in school or mistakes and mess-ups at work. This is not totally accurate, as I am a sensitive person and I have my off days. But mostly, I find myself able to take failure in stride. I don’t care so much when I get a 70 per cent as opposed to a 90 per cent and I don’t get down at the thought of having no discernible natural talent like singing or writing well. As they say, you learn from your mistakes and faults. Despite the prevalence of that thought though, not a lot of people believe in it.
I have seen people berate themselves or teachers for unfavorable
grades. I have seen people give their all to a project or task, only for it not to work out the way they wanted it to. I think self-improvement and growth matters,
but I do not think setting near-impossible standards for yourself is healthy.
Yes, you should do your best, but you should also realize that whoever is judging your work or abilities has a completely different idea of what success looks and feels like. It’s not an entirely fair system we live in, but it never will be. Most people you meet think completely different from you.
Of course, affirmation and validation from your peers or those above you feels great. There is no denying that we all want to be told we are good. Sometimes though, we need someone to tell us we aren’t that good, but we can be better if we want to. Tell yourself when you fail or mess up, “That did not work for me. I am not very good at that. But I can be if I want, and if I don’t, then I will still be OK.” Affirm yourself, too. Know that you are good at a lot of little things, but maybe not at one big thing. Or that you are amazing at one big thing, but not at the little things. It doesn’t matter where you fall on society’s success scale and it never really should.