I Forgot the Brownies (...And Why It's Good to Make Misteaks)
Being hard on ourselves might be one way of striving towards our best selves. But there are other, gentler ways to encourage ourselves. We can choose how to be in relation to our screw ups. So go ahead, make some misteaks....
We’re hard on ourselves, admit it.
The speed and velocity of life, this relentless obsession with forward progress, with goals and achieving – it’s hardly the ideal environment for cultivating perspective, is it? So many of us are automatons, suffering from an achievement-based dysfunction.
It’s not just you.
If I indulge it, my inner critic delights in pointing the spotlight on the epic mistakes I’ve made, the unsuitable relationships, the years spent going down rabbit trails in the wrong career. It points out my frosted lipstick, my bad perm/mullet and my stonewashed Edwin jeans in the 80s. Anywhere there's a regrettable choice, there's an inner critic.
From here, it’s a short jump to what I call “shoulds-and-should-nots-ville,” a head-turf in which I mull over where I should have gotten to by now.
As an ambitious forty-three-year-old woman, I should have written three best-sellers by now. I should be signing million dollar coaching clients (five a year) and be making smug videos about work-life balance. I should have a perfect White Company life and a perfect, on-trend wardrobe.
I shouldn’t still be worrying about my pension, or how we’ll deal with our ageing parents.
I shouldn’t be letting my kids spend so much time on electronic devices just to buy myself some headspace.
I shouldn’t have this post-baby jiggle, seven years on.
I shouldn’t still be worrying about my own not-good-enoughness.
I should have had it all figured out by now.
But I don’t. And actually that’s ok. I’ve learned in my forties that we’re all pretty much winging it.
Every time we notice we’re in “shoulds-and-should-nots-ville,” and choose not to get hooked, we grow a little. We get more real, more authentic. Anne Lamott says, ‘You have to make mistakes to figure out who you aren’t.’
So last week I forgot to make some brownies for the cake sale at my daughter’s school. Forgot!
As we walked to the classroom, with the other mums carrying their frosted creations in Tupperwear, I felt the mental nudge of “you screwed up” elbowing in. The sun was shining. I was holding my 7-year-old’s hand as she skipped along, ponytails bouncing. I screwed up. The clouds were closing in – but only in my mind.
But that’s not how I wanna roll anymore. So my mistake, using Anne Lamott’s logic, helps me to figure out that I’m not super-woman. I’m actually surprisingly cool with that.
Here’s the thing: we can choose how to be in relationship with our mistakes. We can dwell on them and self-flagellate. We can even get down about feeling down.
Or we can realise and embrace that we’re all committed to doing our best. And that’s enough. Being committed to being kind, to paying attention and to nurturing ourselves and others can be a new measure of success.
‘See, there’s lots of cakes, mummy. Never mind,’ my daughter said as she kissed me goodbye at the classroom door. ‘Maybe we can make some pancakes when we’re on half-term.’
This made me wonder how much guilt is self-manufactured, and how much lighter life feels without it.
But for now, I’ve gotta go. We have some pancakes to fry….