Fragments of my past have popped up lately, to remind me of the immaturity I had in my younger days. We can never truly escape the past. I struggled with it for a while, judging my past self for all the horrid decisions I have made, except that I couldn’t have become the person I am without those mistakes. They always say “fail fast, fail often” for startups, does this apply for human beings as well? My naive idealism has enabled me to quickly find out where are the limits and parameters of my personality.
There was one day in the past few weeks where I simply truly accepted the person I was – I tried thinking about it a thousand ways and there was no way I could have avoided making those mistakes. I made them because I believed in the improbable, and some of those bets have been rewarding. Sometimes we quickly forget the rewards and we hold on to the failures. Pain is easier to be melded into the memory I suppose.
This was probably the first time I looked at myself and honestly accepted my flaws. My suffering came from the expectation of myself as this pristine human being, and it took me thirty five years of life to realise how unreasonable it is. I accepted that I was hugely flawed, I have learned from some of those lessons and yet I am still flawed. I feel like I am beginning to have some semblance of maturity – that it is not about not having flaws, it is about having the capacity to acknowledge them and decide whether they can be worked on, managed, or deferred because it is simply not time yet. We can’t work on everything at the same time.
Why am I trying so hard to be “pristine” anyway?
Growth to me is developing the agency to choose what to let go and what to shoulder consciously. I can live with my flaws and errors, I will carry them with me. I cannot keep wishing that they didn’t happen or I could have been someone different. I cannot move back in time to change the past, but I can make choices for the present and the future.
That realisation was strangely empowering. I gave up the delusion of being a pristine human being and decided I rather be my very imperfect but trying self. I need to start being honest about who I am, what I need, what I can do and cannot do. Trying to be someone I am not has caused suffering not only for myself, but for the people around me, because they are also deluded into a false sense of who I am. I would rather be unhelpful than to keep on serving disappointments. It is like the Buddhist concept of non-action. Plenty of times, not doing is better than doing.
I take one step forward, two steps back. Rinse and repeat in cycles. But I think I’ll rather grow the capacity to endure failure, to still have that risk appetite to bet on the improbable, than to become that person who avoids failures.