Epic Fails and Trying to be Perfect

So, I watched this video this morning. It showed up in my Facebook feed and I have been thinking about it ever since.

Sara Blakely, the founder and CEO of Spanx, talks about how when she was a kid, her dad would ask her at the dinner table what she had failed at. He didn’t want to know what she had done well, because if she hadn’t failed she wasn’t really trying. When she failed, he would praise her and celebrate those mistakes. She took those experiences and used them in her billion dollar business. She talks to her employees about her failures and their failures all the time. This actually makes it okay to make mistakes and fail, which in turn means that people take more risks and have more breakthroughs. Changing the cultural view of failure has changed her business and her life.

How often do we get praised for failure? It seems like never, and yet only through making mistakes, failing, can we actually get better. In terms of emotional work, fear of failing can keep us in situations that are dangerous and toxic. It can keep us from getting help. It can keep us from getting to know others and forming a support group. So much of healing comes through accepting the role of mistakes and failure and learning from them.

Life is just about practicing. Many years ago I heard someone put it this way. You don’t expect a seven year old to sit down at the piano and make no mistakes. There would be no point in practicing. The hours of practice create muscle memory and solidify music theory. Practice can’t happen without mistakes. You are just practicing in your life. You are practicing feeling emotions; practicing in your relationships; practicing trust. Give yourself some time and some space and then give yourself some slack.

For so many of us, it is terrifying to let others know that we don’t have it all together, that our lives are less than perfect. Perfectionism is super dangerous, especially for those how have experienced some form of trauma. Some of us use perfectionism as a coping mechanism. “If I can just keep it together, then . . . ” Fill in the blank. “People will love me.” “He won’t get angry.” “My family will be proud of me.” “He won’t cheat again.” This is a destructive and toxic cycle.

It was shocking for me to learn that perfectionism is just a form of controlling others. We seek to be perfect to change someone who isn’t giving us what we need. When they don’t change, we believe that something must be wrong with us. If we really were being perfect, then they would change. Talk about a mind blowing concept.

So, it is time to stop flogging ourselves because we fail. If we can change the perception of failure, like Sara Blakely says we should, then think of the powerful healing that can happen in our hearts, in our relationships, and our lives.

For some more insight on how our emotions and traumas play into perfectionism and how we view failure, check out Brené Brown’s work with vulnerability and shame and the following Bloom courses:


Join Bloom for Women

For women seeking healing from betrayal trauma.

Join Bloom for Partners

For men seeking help for unwanted sexual behaviors.