I HATE MISTAKES. I mean I really hate them. It drives me crazy when I make them, which of course, I do. I'm a human and mistakes are kind of part of our gig. I usually explain away my hatred of mistakes with my perfectionism. "I just want to do everything right all the time." I say. It sort of turns making mistakes into a package with a pretty bow. It turns my embarassment and shame into a sign of my determination and drive. It makes me look better than I am.
The truth is messier than that. The truth is less flattering. The reason I hate making mistakes so much, is because these errors remind me a truth I try really hard to ignore. I do things wrong sometimes. I can be mean. I can be selfish. I can be shallow. I can be petty. I can be cruel.
It doesn't fit the image I want the world to see -- kind hearted, open, friendly and encouraging. But as I stated earlier, I am human, which means that I behave in ways that display that humanity. Sometimes, I can be kind of a jerk.
I was raised in church and this muddies the waters on my feelings toward my humanity. I was raised to understand that pride, cruelty, arrogance, unkind talk and actions are all sins. Sins are bad. Sin is not acceptable, and I must rid myself of it -- tuck it away and hide it. Perhaps that is the very root of my desire to be perfect -- grown from a deep need to be acceptable to a God with high demands. Of course the older I get, the more I think maybe I understood some of these early teachings incorrectly, or maybe those teaching me explained them incorrectly. I understand now that entire point of faith is based in my inability to manage perfection; it is based on the very idea that I am filled with mistakes.
Within the walls of my classroom, I've preached daily the importance of understanding that mistakes are the things that teach us. I encourage my students to embrace their mistakes, and dig deep into them -- "What can we learn from this?" "How can we make it better next time?" It is something I've explained over and over and over. I want them to develop a growth mindset -- one that views error as a real and acceptable part of life. I have come to realize that, while I might be an effective teacher, I'm not a very good student.
My flaws are a part of me. And in the same way, I am teaching myself to accept my muscular thighs (definiately not model skinny), I also need to accept my flaws. Yes, sometimes I get it wrong. Yes, sometimes I am mean. Yes, sometimes I am too judgy. These are all aspects of me -- as real as my blue eyes. My shame and humiliation over mistakes is a kind of self-hatred, and causes me to focus on all the wrong things. Instead of determining what I can learn from my mistakes, I am focused on hiding my errors -- like a kid in a class who doesn't want anyone to know they got the wrong answer, I glance all around to see who is watching. I miss the chance to grow because I'm too prideful to accept that I've got things left to learn.
I need to develop a growth mindset toward my own heart. Instead of being driven to be perfect already, I need to celebrate my journey toward becoming a softer, kinder, more loving human. We live in a world that celebrates struggle only AFTER victory has been achieved. We expect our lives to be like an inspirational Disney film, and as we slog through the dark times which are sterotypically forshadowed with a storm, we already know that greatness is just on the other side of that rain cloud. Real life isn't like that. Sometimes that storm can happen in the middle of a sunny day, and sometimes the victory or understanding comes years later. We live in a world of lonliness during our struggles and tell ourselves, "Well, that's how it is." But what if it didn't have to be that way? What if we could celebrate the struggle, and admit to one another, "Yeah, I really messed up the other day. I still haven't figured my way out of the mess, but I'm working on it." What if confessions like that were treated with the same joy as when people say, "Man that was the toughest time, but if it hadn't happened I would be a zillionaire now." What if we could celebrate right in the middle of the storm, before the sun rises?
I don't know if you read on the internet recently, the article about celebrating failure. It was really good, and shared the idea that if you are not failing, then you aren't stretching yourself beyond what you already know you can do. Failure then is an indication of not just courage, but a daring and adventurous spirit. We only fail to catch things that our beyond our grasp. I've told the Offspring on the last few mornings, "Let's see if we can't find something difficult to do, and fail at it." They look at me like I'm crazy, but the other day The Boy said, "Yeah, I can do that. Multiplying by 9 is pretty impossible." I hope he can rise above the errors of his mother, and learn that not every thing he says, does, and thinks has to be perfect.
My Dad, who is pretty awesome reads my blog, and usually sends me little notes. He will squeeze little things like, "you had a couple typos" in with his praise or thoughtful questions. I think my typos in my writing really show my true humanity. I've got high goals -- I want to express my thoughts in powerful and moving way, but sometimes I spell stuff wrong; sometimes I skip a word. Even when I carefully reread my work, I still have errors that slip through. My desire to publish a perfect, pristine piece, is thwarted by my own humanity.
Is it okay if I confess to you that sometimes I can be pretty negative? Is it okay if I admit that I always want everyone to like me all the time? Is it okay if we agree that I'm imperfect and NEVER remeber to send out thank you cards, or that I think unkind thoughts from time to time? I am filled with great hope that someday, I can look you in the eye and say, "Yeah, I totally screwed that up," and then move on as if it were the most normal thing in the world -- because, after all, it is.