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!



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