It’s OK to Make Mistakes

It’s OK to Make Mistakes 

Forget thinking you need to be perfect. Perfection is not optimal for learning. When it comes to learning and evolving, making a healthy number of mistakes is an effective way of absorbing new skills, much more so than trying to be flawless. Unfortunately, our society focuses and puts too much weight upon perfection, particularly in education. However, failure IS a healthy and helpful option, at least some of the time.

Perfectionism is usually seen as a positive trait that improves your chances of success. However, it may lead to self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that make it more challenging to achieve goals. It may also lead to anxiety, depression, stress, and other mental health issues. People who often strive for perfection out of feelings of failure or inadequacy may find it helpful to speak with a clinical psychologist, as professional therapy can often help people manage the excessive self-limitation of perfectionism.

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is the need to appear or be perfect. People may justify perfectionistic behavior by applying the term “healthy perfectionism.” It is usually considered a positive trait rather than a flawed behavior. However, even believing that it’s possible to achieve perfection is faulty reasoning. Perfectionism and striving to do your best are not the same. 

Indeed, perfection is not about healthy growth and achievement. It’s well-advised for people to be able to distinguish between perfectionism and healthy behavior. Perfection does not support these. People often use perfectionism as a shield to protect themselves against the pain of shame, judgment, or blame.

The 85% Rule

How many mistakes are acceptable when learning? The 85% rule says getting things right 85% of the time, and is the sweet spot when it comes to learning efficiently. This means a 15% error rate can allow someone enough space to improve without giving up. Perfectionism is not ideal for optimal learning. If what you do is 100% accurate, you won’t take as much from that situation as you would if you were struggling a little bit. When you’re struggling a bit, but not too much, that’s the point where you’re learning the most.  

The Negative Effect of Pursuing Perfection 

Studies confirm that students value good grades over learning. Therefore, educators and parents should consider reducing the push for perfection in learning. That way, students can take more risks rather than stick to safer and easier tasks and classes where they might not be learning the most. 

Children naturally gravitate to the things that they can’t quite achieve and provide the biggest challenge for them. If they find something engaging, challenging, and at the edge of what they can do, they are inherently motivated to do that. They should probably listen to that feeling and not be so driven by perfection.

Kids and adults with a history of significant achievement sometimes feel overwhelming pressure to live up to the previous ones. If you think you or your child may have traits of perfectionism that is causing concern or distress, seek the help of a trusted compassionate therapist in Palatine, IL

Thanks to Lotus Wellness Center for their insight into counseling and making mistakes.