Do you beat yourself up about your silly mistakes?
Last Tuesday, I made a silly mistake. It didn’t end there. I followed it up by blaming myself for it, the entire week. I didn’t sleep well and spent the nights trying to figure out the how and why of it. It was quite a silly error. But, I couldn’t bring myself to let go. When I was done punishing myself, I got thinking about how mistakes affect us, rather how we let them (affect us). And I am not talking about grave errors at work or in our personal lives. I am talking about the silly stuff. Setting up the alarm for six pm, instead of six am. Misspelling words on the messenger. Washing the whites with coloured clothes. Adding yet another pinch of paprika to the pasta. Taking the wrong exit on the road. Yes, that kind of stuff.
Do you too beat yourself up about your silly mistakes?
During my college days, one of mum’s friend, Anita Aunty, used to drop me to the campus. On those rides, Aunty and I would talk about various things. She loved talking about her father and how he’d raised her. She’d share anecdotes from her childhood. One such tale has stayed with me. Her father had got her a new watch and she’d insisted on wearing it to the neighbourhood park. ‘The watch band is loose for you, wear it after we get it fixed to your wrist size,’ he’d said. She wore it, nevertheless, and well, came back crying, ‘I was very careful, I don’t know how it fell off.’ Her father chose to hug her over a scolding — read: I told you so. She spent the next few days blaming herself for her silly mistake — ‘I could have easily waited for another day’. Her father remained calm all this while. “His one hug taught me to be both careful and forgive myself,” recalled Aunty, “I was always a responsible child that I had a tough time accepting it. He taught me how to treat myself on certain occasions. ”
Many of us do that, right? We have lofty expectations of us and we refuse to accept that at times we can fall short of meeting them. I too, like many others out there, have fixed achievable and unachievable standards for myself. Often, I am content with my effort and the results. But, when I fail the internal monologue switches off, instantly — “I should not have been looking at my phone. I should have made note of it in the diary. Why did I not cross-check? And so on and so forth.
We all make mistakes, right? Big and small. We’re tired, busy and at times, forgetful. Most of us are constantly multi-tasking too. So, just sometimes, it’s a nice thought to forgive ourselves and silence the inner critic. It’s important to be good to ourselves. After a fortnight of self-torture, I have decided to do just that.
I will take responsibility for my silliness and follow it up by laughing it off. I plan to confront my expectations at such ‘critical’ moments. I will treat myself well. I will choose a hug over a scolding. I will tell myself, ‘Oops, that was silly of me’ and move on. Hopefully, I will get better at dealing with the powerful punches of the tiny voice.
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.