All the reviews I’ve seen and read on the Oscar ceremony have focused on the confusion that surrounded the Best Picture award, but it seems to me that we’ve missed a great chance here to say something important about failure and mistakes.
In Western societies, many of us fall prey to the cultural message of perfection. We’re told to do better, try harder, ‘be the best you can be’. Whatever happened to the idea that you’re ok already, just as you are? This constant push towards perfection and the inextricably linked feeling of low self-esteem (‘I’m not good enough’) includes the idea that mistakes are not acceptable. Hence the outcry and apparent need for an inquiry over the Oscars’ white envelope mistake.
An inquiry? For a simple mistake over two sets of envelopes?
What if everyone had followed the line taken by Barry Jenkins, director of Moonlight, the movie that won Best Picture? He said that it was just ‘a human error’ and “It just happens. We’re human beings, you know? We’re not perfect.”
He’s right. It’s ok to make mistakes. As humans, we’re bound to make mistakes, in fact. We can’t avoid them, because we’re not robots, programmed to just do a few things, perfectly. We’re complex living beings who will make mistakes and fail from time to time. We’re not perfect. And that’s ok.
Moonlight is a film that teaches us compassion, and I’m happy to follow its director’s line. It’s good to let our mistakes go, and move past them with forgiveness, not self-recrimination.
PS If you find yourself struggling with anxiety over the idea of failure or making mistakes, there’s a mind-changing speech at the Insight Meditation Centre, Redwood City, California on the benefits of failure.