In this extremely competitive day and age, there seems to be an inherent belief that mistakes are costly. Our education system perpetuates this idea – your eligibility for higher education hinges on your exam marks, and your conduct grade depends on your ability to follow rules. We develop admiration for the ones who never seem to fail, and we aspire to be like them – praised, rewarded, applauded. We have been socialized to develop a preoccupation for perfection and an unwillingness to take risks. Some call it survival, because they believe people want them only when they’re perfect.
Yet it’s that very attitude that prevents them from improving. The truth is, we don’t actually fear mistakes but we fear the humiliation that comes with it. The price of this “survival” is more destructive than you think. It inhibits our creativity, traps us in safe but mundane patterns of living and worst of all, stops personal growth. Denying ourselves the opportunity to fail also makes us take criticisms personally, causing us to engage in self-damaging behavior.
Embrace failure. “There is no discovery without risk,” as Jeanette Winterson said, “and what you risk reveals what you value.” And she’s right – unless we become comfortable with failure, we will never be truly and completely willing to explore for ourselves. It is from unrestrained exploration that creativity is born and humanity is revealed. People respond to mistakes, failures and misgivings because it reminds them of their own shortcomings. The same goes for acting – good actors are able to relate to people on a personal level because they so readily and openly reveal their fallibility. They know that it is okay to make mistakes because there is nothing to lose, allowing them to approach their work with distinctive fervor and tenacity.
Believe it or not, screwing up can also work very much in your favor. Jeff Wise, journalist and author of ‘Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger’, identifies this from a research done in California. The research suggests that when we form an opinion about a person, we tend to base our assessment to a great degree on the first impression we get. When we receive opposing information, we re-evaluate our judgment. If most of the information received about the person appears to be positive, we come out with a stronger and better impression than before.
So you see, it really doesn’t matter if you screw up at the beginning of your performance or speech. If anything, that mistake will help to get the audience on your side. Delivering a good, grounded performance after a mistake might even help you to get into their “good books” more easily. Above all, when you allow yourself to fail, you also allow yourself to enjoy the process. And the audience enjoys it along with you.
At the end of the day, mistakes are here for us to grow. We make them, we receive criticism, and we come back with work that is better and stronger than before.