by Liora Powers Spiess

The theory goes that we should give ourselves and others “permission to be human.”

Permission to fail, change course, begin again. Always.

We stumble, make mistakes—some minor, some seemingly disastrous.

Yes, we must treat ourselves gently and with compassion.

But where have I allowed myself to fail by not even trying? By setting my expectations too low?

We must move.

If we are committed to growth, we must set expectations high and plan to fail.

Athletes always go over their losses.

A good coach reviews the tape.

We cannot learn without trial and error, making mistakes and correcting.

What would happen if I set unreasonable goals—goals that I knew would make me stumble?

What might I achieve just in the act of reaching?

Amy Chua, the notorious “Tiger Mother,” compares American and Chinese parenting. She writes that Western parents “worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something. They constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility.”

She writes, conversely, of Chinese parenting: “There’s nothing better for building self confidence than learning that you can do something you thought you couldn’t. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits, and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

We must not use “permission to be human” to avoid the disappointment, self-doubt, and failure of reaching and striving.

Where might I demand more of myself, even expecting that I may fail?

There is a time to let ourselves off the hook and a time to demand more.

Growth requires higher expectations, even if I stumble.

“Being human” should not be code for not doing our best.

We must give ourselves permission to be, as the great María Sirois would say, “fabulous.”

This post was originally published on Liora’s blog.

Liora Powers Spiess, CiPP, is a writer, speaker, and life coach with particular interests in positive psychology, nature immersion, and staring mindlessly out the window. Her practice is informed by her study of education, parenting, psychology, philosophy, Twelve-Step recovery, mindfulness, meditation, and more. She has studied with master coaches Martha Beck and Brooke Castillo. Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, she lives with her husband, two sons, and three unwieldly male dogs within sight of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. In a previous lifetime, she practiced big firm corporate law and earned a JD from Cornell Law School and a BA in history from Columbia University. She records her exploits regularly on her blog at