Give yourself permission to be bad at things

I am a perfectionist.  I’d like to say a recovering perfectionist, but I have not really done a good job at changing (probably because I haven’t found the perfect treatment plan yet)!  If anything, I worsen my perfectionism with procrastination (which is not an uncommon pairing).  These are traits I have learned to live with and wished, far too often, that I didn’t have.

While I have learned to live with this, I was alarmed to see these traits start to emerge in Emmett.  His perfectionism with school work (to the point that he often didn’t finish his projects).  His anxiety when things didn’t turn out perfectly.  His desire to plan everything to the nth degree.

All things I don’t want for Emmett.

It’s ok to make mistakes

One of the ways Kristie and I are trying to help Emmett with this is to let him know that it is OK to make mistakes.  It’s a simple concept, but at his age has already helped him so much.  We’ve added to this that many things he thinks are “mistakes” are not only OK to make but sometimes make the project even better!

It’s just the first step but I think it’s a great one.


It’s also ok to be bad at things

Any perfectionist knows that finishing a project without going down the perfectionism spiral is only part of the battle.  And, honestly, probably the easiest battle to manage.

One of the much harder battles is trying something new and being bad at it.

This is also something that I have struggled with my entire life.  I’ve tried many different hobbies and if I’m not good at them (or unable to see myself improving fairly fast) then I will stop the hobby.  It’s frustrating.

Most recently, when I first started woodworking I was practicing on tiny projects and making mistakes all over the place.  These were ok because I was “practicing.”  I also thought I had grown as a person.  But then I started my first major project (a 17th century Nicholson workbench) and one piece got pretty misaligned.

No big deal, right?

Well, for me it was.  I was not sure how to fix it (and didn’t want to scrap it) and as a result the project has been on hold for almost 10 months!  I told myself it was because of Luke being born, because of work stuff, etc and while these seem reasonable the reality is that this was just a dreaded component of my perfectionism kicking in.  (Note:  as I type this, it really sounds silly.  Maybe that’s how I should start to get better at this?!)


I would probably just deal with this but I, again, see this trend developing in Emmett.


Recently, he was really afraid to take the training wheels off his bike because he didn’t want to fail at riding his bike (he also had some body harm fears too… a perfect combination for never riding his bike).

So we worked together over a few weeks to build confidence with him riding his bike as well as being OK with falling, failing and not being perfect.

As I told Emmett, it’s ok to be bad at things.  Especially if they are new things.  And after a few weeks, we finally made it:

As adults, we should learn this lesson too

For many of you, this post didn’t resonate at all (although I hope you enjoyed the video).  My wife, for example, is a shining example of someone who just starts doing things (which is an absolute amazing thing for me to witness and something I want to model).   This post probably doesn’t make much sense to her.

But if you are a fellow perfectionist, maybe this quick article hits home and if it does then I have one message for you too:

It’s ok to be bad at things, especially if they are new

Now, I’ll try to take my own advice and work on finishing my workbench.