When we realize we have made a mistake, our body physically responds as if we cannot stand our own humanness. In addition to wanting to vomit or pass out, our internal critic begins to fully endorse our own self-disgust. Oh I can’t believe you did that again! Don’t you know better by now? How could you be so stupid?
In a weird way, I think it’s our mind’s way of trying to help us. It’s trying really hard to figure out the source of our pain and discomfort, and then once it identifies it as being rooted in a mistake, it works double time to fix it. But the fix that the inner critic can provide is one rooted in the idea that because we make mistakes that these are somehow a part of us, and need to be extracted. Unfortunately the mind’s attempt to exorcise our imperfections straight back to hell is neither kind nor effective.
It is so hard to accept our humanness, especially when it leads to a misstep. Maybe we said something thoughtless to a friend, or maybe we plowed into the back end of the car we were tailgating. Maybe we completely forgot a deadline. Maybe we ate that third cookie even though we were supposed to be on a diet. Maybe we fell for someone’s poor treatment of us, again.
Making room for our mistakes is acknowledging that mistakes are part of being human, and that we still have worth in spite of them. This is not about staying stuck in unhealthy habits, letting poor behavior slide, or getting away with anything. In fact, when we make room for mistakes, we also don’t fight so hard against the repercussions of our missteps. We are able to put down the defensive strategies of lying, manipulation or even isolation to avoid the pain of the mistake and its consequences. When we make room for the lessons our mistakes have to offer, we can see them for the teachers that they truly are.
When I don’t listen to the fear that is actually underneath the refrain of falling short, I can try to fill that horrible emptiness with attempts to ensure my place in the pecking order. It’s not something I am proud of but it feels right to own it. I have the ability to let my fear of being chucked aside guide me down paths I have no desire to be on. The habit of sizing up those around me and bringing them down is easy, and sometimes even fun. But it’s not me.
We hurt others to build ourselves up and out of our pain. Sometimes a snide remark towards my partner will slip out or a judgmental thought about a stranger will parade across my brain. If I give myself a moment, I’ll know that what spurred such nastiness is something so different from whatever the surface criticism was directed at. It’ll be a manifestation of my own fear building up and seeking some sort of relief. And for a split second I do feel a little better. A little smarter, a little more forethinking or organized, a little bit more right and maybe even a little bit better than another person. But actually better? No, not at all.
All this kind of behavior does is leave wounds to both deliverer and receiver. We can become closed off or learn to always have claws at the ready. We become precise in how we cut others down, all in an effort to not feel our own fear of not being enough.
Fear is here to stay. It is hard wired into us to keep us safe. The only thing that will help is asking what does this fear actually need. And as delicious as it can feel to badmouth a coworker or turn yourself into the martyr that has to do all the dishes again, I can promise you that neither of those nasty little chewies is what your fear is actually asking for. It’s asking for some reassurance that you are going to be okay, and that you are perfectly acceptable as you are. You can put the whip and the bitch bat down. Anger and cruelty is not what you need and it’s not who you are.
I remember going to a wedding as a kid and seeing this three tiered beauty of a cake. It was covered in pearls and flowers, the icing was a smooth creamy white finish, and I could not wait to eat that thing. I was later informed that it was only a decorative cake. It wasn’t actually for eating. What. The. Fudge. New Years Eve is like that soul crushing decorative cake. It is beautiful, over the top and makes false promises of how delicious it will be. New Years Eve is made of cardboard, just like that cake.
New Years Eve has this glow of possibility, as if something magical happens at the stroke of midnight. Instead, you get some cheap champagne, sore feet (thanks NYE heels), and the onslaught of New Year, New You fills your head with laundry lists of how last year you was complete garbage.
These clothes, this work out, that new job...every year seems to start with an almost ritualistic itemization of how much we’ve fallen short the year before, and how we are going to rectify the sheer horror of our inadequacy in the upcoming twelve months. But as 2018 rolls to an end, I want something better for myself and others. I want us to turn away from the challenge of churning out a new and improved self, and instead look back at everything we’ve done. We’re here. We made it.
This New Years, I am looking back over a year that is unique in its strangeness, and acknowledging the guts it took to get through it without ruining my life. I am looking at it and saying yes! I am listening to what my heart is trying to say instead of holding fast to the lies that depression and anxiety convincingly tell. I am learning that I am not a bother or an inconvenience. I am seeing teachers and lessons all around. I am opening my heart up to healing.
Now I am not knocking the ol’ New Years Resolution. The new year has this feeling of a blank slate, and is a natural time to evaluate old habits and priorities to see what is still working for us and what isn’t. But this year, I am taking a new view on resolutions. One that sees them as tools to cultivate our unique contribution to the world, instead of heavy handed mallets we use to knock ourselves into shape. A view of kindness towards others and myself that is steadfast, no matter the missteps or challenges.
We rocked 2018.