I grew up in a culture where the term ‘silly mistake’ was used fairly frequently during my formative years. Whether it be a wrong answer in my mathematics exam or unintentionally messing up, my parents, teachers, and anyone older than me would rarely fail to point out something they deemed as a ‘silly mistake’—to an extent that even honest mistakes were sometimes considered silly.
In that same culture, broadcasting or sharing my mistakes is also frowned upon. Why in the world would you ever tell others about your weaknesses and your failures? Opening up about how I’ve messed up is considered as washing my dirty laundry in public. And so for a long time, whenever I made a mistake, I would attempt burying it… and, when I was still a child, shifting the blame to someone else was a default reaction.
I’m not sure about the rest of the world but in Asia, I was raised to minimise mistakes. Thus, I was afraid of making mistakes. Yet in this day and age, we are told to ‘celebrate mistakes’. And coming from a culture where we never once celebrated our past mistakes, what does that phrase actually mean? How do we celebrate screwing up? Are we to pat the backs of those who failed? Do we cheer for regrettable and seemingly ignorant decisions?
It was only after a few years in the working world that I learned what it meant to celebrate my mistakes. And though it might seem counter-culture-intuitive, celebrating my mistakes meant acknowledging that I wasn’t perfect—that in all the years of covering up and hiding my mistakes, it was time to accept that I am human.
What that phrase means to me now is admitting my mistakes, being responsible for the outcome of those mistakes, learning to troubleshoot the mistakes, and not shifting the blame or sweeping it under the carpet. Celebrating my mistakes is being bold enough to say it was my fault and that I was wrong, without the fear of judgement—despite the likelihood that I am still being judged in this culture. Celebrating my mistakes also means being unafraid of making mistakes because it is through my mistakes that I learn and improve in areas that clearly needed improvement. And guess what, celebrating my mistakes is one of the most freeing decisions I’ve ever made.
No longer am I striving to paint this perfect picture. No longer do I need to pretend that I am succeeding in life. No longer will I have to hide who I truly am—I am free to be a human with all the flaws a human could possibly have. And that is why I’ll keep celebrating my mistakes… even if the world wouldn’t celebrate them with me.
Are YOU afraid of making mistakes? Maybe it’s time to celebrate them instead.