More on being wrong

I was talking to a young friend of mine. It was really helpful, because they reminded me of a few things I’d forgotten.

We were talking (and talking and talking) about many things because it was fun. The topic of last week’s blog came up since it was on my mind. And of course, they had something to add! Their perspective on being wrong was that sometimes if you admit you are wrong, it feels like there’s something wrong with you.

It’s true. Whether you admit it to yourself or someone else, it feels like there is something wrong with you. I’d forgotten that, but it was quick to come back. I do remember that intense pressure to be right, to never admit if I made a mistake, because it meant something (awful) about me. I remember how the enormity of admitting I made a mistake was almost like a confession, and it took time and energy to work up the guts to make the admission.

I remember feeling that tenuousness, insecurity, and even frailty. I also remember that I came off as arrogant and quite an asshole.  An insecure asshole.

We create that. We create that pressure to be perfect. We create it for ourselves, but also for others. Expectations. Criteria. Judgment. If you aren’t perfect, there is something wrong with you. (I am not going to jump up on the glaringly obvious plyo-box covered in social media stickers that is sitting right here in the center of the room with us, but we all know it is there, okay?)

I took several tests this weekend for a certification. (Yes, it’s necessary for a new job in case you were about to call me out for chasing certifications…and thank you for caring!) There were 3 practice tests. I passed two with 100%, and one with 70%.  I started to take that one again because I wanted to find out what I had gotten “wrong”. Wow, that felt horrible. I reframed it to be “I genuinely want to learn this material.” That was much better. I studied the areas I hadn’t aced then retook the test. I will probably remember that information longer now because it became a lesson instead of a flaw or failing.

Then came the final exam. I needed to get 80% to pass. I didn’t get 100%, but I passed. I had to manage my self-judgment and perfectionism. I don’t need to go back and study and retake the exam until I can get 100%. It is fine if I got a couple of answers WRONG. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me.

I am so grateful that (over time) I learned how to say things like “oops, my bad” or “I made a mistake” or “that’s on me, let me fix it” or any variation on that theme.

I think that being able to say “I’m sorry, I’m wrong” – without believing that it means that there is something wrong with me – has been the singularly most freeing lesson in my life. It sure helped me to be less of an asshole!

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!

Maggie

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Wanna talk about coaching? I do! Email me at maggie@maggiehuffman.com

2 Comments

  1. Chris July 31, 2022 at 7:57 am

    I like this ‘continuation’ from the previous post. They complement each other nicely. I have some observations to share on this one. Firstly, yeah, absolutely. Agree 100% with what you’ve written. Secondly, a qualifier. I often read statements like these: “We create that. We create that pressure to be perfect. We create it for ourselves, but also for others” and feel guilty or challenged or accountable in a way that feels personal. An associated thought is, “Yeah, I’m doing this to myself. Why would I do that? Stop it!” But it’s more complicated than that. I would qualify and say something like, “We are programmed to create that. We are rewarded for creating that by our caregivers and our culture.” You’ve certainly said that elsewhere and in other contexts, I know. It feels less personal and it also acknowledges the virtually invisible relationship between our autonomy and our interdependence that can be so challenging to a) recognize and b) tease apart into components we can control and those we can’t. Lastly, isn’t it cool that you can (now, at this stage) say, “I remember…” fill-in-the-blank? It’s a testament to how much incredible thinking and inner work you’ve done that at least some of this ‘unhelpful’ stuff is situated more firmly in your memory than in your present, your now. As much as I still struggle with all of this stuff, I’m super grateful I’ve lived as long as I have to make the progress I’ve been able to make. Progress, that is, not perfection! OX

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  2. maggie July 31, 2022 at 8:57 am

    Chris, you are so right. We ARE programmed to create that pressure. So often we don’t even know that we’re programmed as you say. It is a virtually invisible relationship between autonomy and interdependence. It’s a journey; it’s always a journey.
    And yes it is very cool to say “I remember” (instead of “I’m in the midst of…”) because, yeah, that’s progress! Much love to you!
    Maggie

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