The Beauty of Mistakes

Apr 4, 2012

I make a lot of mistakes.

I am learning to see their beauty.

These mistakes are mostly around dates and times for classes and typos, but I’m also good for word usage and grammar oddities at least a few times a week.

I lose students and readers over these mistakes as they appear uncaring and unprofessional.

I receive the occasional snarky email telling me so. (And then I get emails that were snarky and we talk and we learn from each other so much – thanks Carol, you touched my heart!)

I make these mistakes because I mildly dyslexic and, far more germane, I make these mistakes because I judge myself for making them. This judgment pings me into a shame response, which catapults my nervous system in hyper-arousal which leads me to exhaustion and, sometimes, to make more mistakes because I’m freaking out and moving far too fast.

It’s like a Rube Goldberg device gone bad.

Dissolving this structure – finding the beauty – is a huge part of my inner work these days, weeks, years.

Here is what I’m not doing anymore:

Problem solving. As in recognizing that the question: “What can I learn from this mistake?” so doesn’t work for me. Thinking of what I did or didn’t do as a problem means I am trying to make something go away, which gets conflated with me being bad, and leads me toward being a victim rather than a creator.  That’s a twisty harsh way to stay mired in the shame story of because I made a mistake, I am not okay. I stay up in my head and in hyper-arousal and awareness.

Plus the solutions I come up with in this state rarely work. Wonder why?

What I am practicing:

Stopping.

Putting my hand on my heart and saying something nice to myself, like “This really, really sucks.”

Letting myself feel all my feelings while dropping the story that if only I didn’t make mistakes I would be everything I’m sure I’m not. (I imagine dropping my story as ducking a dodge ball or stepping aside while a slathering rapid dog runs by. I just let it go on it’s way.)

Asking myself a loving question like, “What if this weren’t a problem and didn’t indicate anything about you?”

Resting in my essential unstainable goodness (which means finding my essence without agenda, without the need to save myself or prove I am good; rather to touch it like you would a beautiful animal, with reverence for its simple profound being, not because it will do anything for you.)

This is what I am practicing.

Very, very imperfectly.

I offer you this to play with, if you are so moved, because the stingy shame of mistakes are the nightshades of our creative and entrepreneurial work. They can suck us into the void for days, weeks, years, lifetimes — appearing real when, in fact, they are nothing more than opportunities to open to grace.

What do you do when you make a mistake? How do you find the beauty?
I’d love to learn from you.

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