For most of my childhood, my dad was an avid Aikidoist. I would sometimes go to the dojo with him, and watched as he and other grown ups would roll themselves into incredibly agile little balls and roll in a circle around the room as part of their warm up. It always looked fun to me, but when my parents tried to encourage me to take classes with the other kids, I balked.
Even at the tender age of 7, I was afraid of being bad at something. I had already figured out that I was “bad at gym class” and that I wasn’t good at tumbling, gymnastics, etc. Taking classes at the dojo felt like it was just going to be more of the same gym class stuff that I was already trying to avoid with timely visits to the nurse.
This fear of being bad at stuff continued for years, reaching its zenith in my first years as a lawyer. My first job out of law school was at one of the largest law firms in the world, and somehow, I ended up working mostly for the most dreaded partners in my department. I spent many a late night going back and forth between her office and mine, re-editing simple cover letters ten times over until she was happy with it.
Working for her shook my self-esteem to the core. I would read agreements and letters over and over again looking for mistakes, but inevitably I would miss something and she would take me to task. I was so afraid of making mistakes that the stress led me to make more mistakes. (I later found out that other associates who had worked for her had needed extensive therapy, some choosing to leave the law altogether only a year or so into it.) Luckily for me, after about two years, the partner I was working for left the law altogether, and thankfully, I was able to begin the work of improving my self esteem and rebuilding relationships with other people at the firm who came to respect my work.
Even so, I was in a pretty dark place emotionally when I leafed through a Learning Annex brochure that included a talk by Albert Ellis. I signed up for the talk, and while not all of it resonated with me, Dr. Ellis had a line that has been with me ever since. During the talk, he had us say, again and again, “I’m a fucked up, fallible, human being, just like everyone else!” Saying that a number of times with a group of 50 people or so whom you just met is incredibly freeing. I remembered, that I’m human, and humans make mistakes. In fact, they make lots of mistakes, and my occasionally, arguably misplaced commas were pretty meaningless on the scale of human mistakes.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the whole idea of mistakes. I’ve realized that mistakes are a sign that I’m actually doing something. I’m trying something. I’m stretching beyond my comfort zone. Mistakes are often a sign that I’m taking action on my dreams. Mistakes show me that maybe I need to do more research, or ask more questions, or get more people involved or just make more mistakes until I get it right. Or maybe the mistake was the right way to do things in the first place.
Essentially, I’m a firm believer in mistakes. Looking back, what mistakes have you made that you were glad you made?
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Go to http://www.bodylovewellness.com/free to get her NEW free gift — Golda’s Top 5 Tips For Loving The Body You Have Right Now!