If you grow up in an environment where preserving one’s reputation, credibility and dignity precedes all norms, you know that any form of mistake can either outcast or shame you indefinitely. For you to survive—you learn to submit, not contradict; you become accommodating, not confrontational; you develop confidence in choosing safe passages, not with risky diversions. For all intents and purposes, people around you will praise your act of conformity and frown upon deviance. Because that’s just how it is.
You know this by heart because at an early age, you are told “not to do this and that”. You are always warned and or reprimanded as a means to guide you not to go astray. You are given limited opportunities to “try this and that”, because the unknown is not to be tackled. As a result, you become fixated with a perfect world, where mistakes are aberration. You simply follow what has always been proven to be “right” and “good”, not necessarily for you but at least for those around you.
Making mistakes might be seen as normal, easily accepted and even encouraged in other societies. However, that is hardly the case in close-knit societies. It is a perplexing notion. Incomprehensible. How can one be so arrogant to challenge what has always worked, only to fail? How can one be so selfish to put their family’s name in the limelight, only to be shamed? How can one be so prideful to seek for things that are too foreign, only to endanger the status quo?
Certainly, this socio-cultural make up demands for order, stability and continuity. Hence, everyone is expected to respect norms and recognize traditions.
But as our societies continuously changes, it might not necessarily be deemed as an act of disrespect to take these norms and traditions with a grain of salt. Yes, there is a possibility that you might lose face in the process of “discovering what mistakes really mean”. There will be chatters about your unsuccessful undertakings. In fact, your family’s name might even make it to the headline of weekly blabbermouths. Worst, you might be labeled as the black sheep who was destined to fail after all. Maybe because you have chosen a college degree you ended up flunking (instead of being a doctor like everyone else), ventured into a business that bankrupted your entire savings (instead of taking the usual white collar desk job), or dated someone who turned out to be your worst nightmare (instead of agreeing to arranged marriage). Or you might have lost friends after choosing the right thing to do instead of the kind thing to do. Or you missed to reach your sale targets despite having worked so hard.
Mistakes often feel so threatening. But if we become so fearful of making mistakes, don’t we also lose face by missing the opportunities to learn and become better versions of ourselves? Don’t we miss valuable life lessons that could be passed on to inspire the generations to come? Don’t we miss the natural state of evolution of adapting to changes, simply because of adhering to an illusion of stability and order?
I do not intend to enthuse a revolution of some sort. That’s overdramatic. I think I have done enough boat rocking. I just wish to share that life is full of uncertainties, that mistakes really are inevitable. It is true in all kinds and shapes of societies. (Although, context meaning can of course can be arguable in terms of what is relative, universal, and among others). But if we are to accept mistakes as normal occurrence, we might be able to appreciate the benefits it brings.
Here’s a work-in-progress list of why it’s totally fine to make mistakes:
Mistakes help us discover ourselves.
Consider mistakes as a means to reveal our unfulfilled potential. The mistakes we make allow us to see a different version of ourselves, often an improved persona. We discover that we are resilient and resourceful. We discover skills and capabilities we were never aware of. We discover the possibilities we can achieve.
Mistakes lead us to learn and take actions
We leave our comfort zones when we make mistakes. In the process, we become susceptible to new learning that consequently allows us to take valuable actions. When we make mistakes, we learn what works and what doesn’t, what is worth fighting for and what isn’t, what we want or need. And when guided by these learnings, we take informed decisions and actions.
Mistakes teach us to let go, forgive and be happy
When we accept, and admit our mistakes—we learn to let go of our fears, we forgive ourselves and the people who have in some ways harmed or hurt us, and consequently we give happiness a chance. Because, when we let go, we experience more. When we forgive, we love more. And happiness becomes a natural by-product.
Denim Jacket: Zara