Why You Should Keep Trying Even When You Already Failed II

Read Part I first here

Last week I shared how I’ve been feeling like a failure of a writer. This is the conclusion of the three truths I want to be engrained in my mind. 

3. Since when is “horrible” the only other option besides “perfect”?

I recently had some training where I work, and let’s just say I’m not even 10% where I am “supposed” to be on a particular school-wide program. To be honest, I wasn’t even trying to be on board with it. So why did it result in a multiple hour anxiety attack, fueled by the feeling that I was a horrible, no-good, imposter-status teacher?

Simple: The score on the program showed that I’m not meeting a standard. If I’m not perfect, the only other option is that I failed. Therefore, we have conclusive evidence that I am a failure.

…Really, though?

Later on the same day, a colleague and friend noticed my upset and checked on me. Yes, I am still feeling guilty about being a terrible teacher, I replied. But whatever, I’ll be fine.

He wasn’t having it. After disconnecting my self-worth from my usage of some random program, he proceeded to break apart this assumption. Good teachers seek to better themselves and you do that. You grapple with new situations. You’re concerned about how you’re doing. Therefore, you’re a good teacher.

He ended with this: “If you decide that the way you do things now are perfect and you never attempt to improve yourself again, well then yea, you’d turn into a pretty awful teacher, but I don’t suspect that happening.”

Between horrible and perfect there’s this thing called progress. It is beyond beginning but it is still incomplete. A seed grows into a sapling before it stretches into an oak tree; the only kind of bad sapling is one that ceases to grow at all.

A progressing five-year-old looks far different than a progressing twenty-five-year-old; both have standards to meet, yes, but both are incomplete because there is more room to grow. That doesn’t make them bad, it just means they are on a journey of growth.

I get it, though. The word “progress” freaks me out, because I feel like it’s a get-out-of-jail-free card. Oh, I’m failing? Well uh…I’m actually progressing…But that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of progress.

Progress means movement. Effort. Decisions, even small ones. Mistakes, even big ones. Progress often necessitates mistakes because it means new things are both being encountered and attempted.

Don’t be afraid to strive towards perfection and simultaneously be appreciative of your progress. Yes, you can get better, but that doesn’t mean that you’re no good where you are. A sapling that grows is a good sapling. Take heart, growing sapling.

Is anything less than perfection automatically mean failure to you? Do you give yourself permission to stumble along your path of growth? Have you given up because you’re not “there” yet? Take heart and be kind to yourself, sapling. Growth is allowed; in fact, it is blessed. Be confident of this very thing, sapling: He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6.

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