Growing up, amid all my insecurities, the one thing I had faith in was my intelligence. I was a smart girl and there was no way to dispute that.
It was something I held on to desperately when I didn't feel pretty enough, or fun enough, or cool enough.
So, when anything threatened this one area of strength, I got defensive. Like, way too dramatically defensive. My reaction led to a very ugly characteristic:
It was almost impossible for me to admit when I was wrong.
I know that most people don't like admitting errors; it's embarrassing and it bruises your ego, no matter how confident you are. But for me, it was worse than that. Being wrong meant the one thing I thought I had going for me was a lie.
But then, something really amazing happened: I graduated college.
My attempt at perfection was constantly beaten down the second I stepped into the workforce. I was faced with missing a task deadline or suggesting ideas that weren't right for the project. I was told I wasn't getting the job I knew I deserved.
It was brutal and painful and made my generalized anxiety a real roller coaster of hidden bathroom cry-fests.
I would spend the rest of the day beating myself up because something wasn't done right or a client gave feedback that was less than stellar. I would carry it home with me and let it affect the rest of my night. I convinced myself that I wasn't good at whatever it was I was doing at the time.
And then I started a business, and realized how I knew even less than I thought I did.
I was a forever-rookie; accomplishing something only to realize the next step was a new topic I knew nothing about.
I quickly learned that being wrong wasn't something to be ashamed of, it was an opportunity to get better at something.
- You missed a deadline? No big deal, find a new task management system that works better.
- Your client sends you a nasty email telling you what a disappointment you are? Brush it off, then remind yourself that this is just further proof that peoples' behavior is more about them than it is about you.
- Your recommendation for a project ended up being a disaster? That's okay, take ownership of it and find a solution that works.
Unless you're a surgeon or a General, no one dies because you made the wrong decision.
The next time you screw up, try this:
Step 1: admit you did something wrong. It's a mature quality that people will respect (as long as it doesn't happen every day).
Step 2: think of one positive takeaway. If you're down in the dumps and can't think of anything, remind yourself that you just survived one more hardship/failure/setback/whatever you want to call it. That makes you a survivor. Like Beyoncé.
Step 3: rephrase whatever went wrong. For example, if you miss a credit card payment and incur a late fee, don't beat yourself up about it. Instead, consider this a $30 lesson in scheduling a reminder for payment due dates.
You're a human, which means you're going to mess up, but it also means you're incredibly resilient. If you're a good person and you work hard, most decent people around you will be forgiving of a mild mess-up. In fact, it might even make them feel better about their own mistakes. It's all about perspective.