Well THAT Was A Mistake, or, How To Conquer Perfectionism With 3-2-1

It’s not that I’m so perfect that I rarely make mistakes, it’s just that usually they’re tiny things I don’t notice, or instances where my ego can brush things off as being other people’s mistake instead, or whatever. You know. We’re human. Usually, with a healthy brain, we don’t spend too much time thinking about our mistakes.

Then there are the moments when you do make a mistake, and it’s right in front of your eyes, and it’s confronting, because you realise that this perfect little image that you have of yourself in your head (anxiety and depression forebearing) is false.

I’m guilty of a superwoman narrative: my usual response to someone telling me something can be done is YEAH?! WANNA BET?!?!?! (This almost always occurs strictly in my head, fyi.) Like the whole narrative about Being A Woman, and about how You Can’t Have It All. That drives me nuts, not on a philosophical level (well, okay, but moving on), but on a nuts-and-bolts, daily-bread kind of level. What do you MEAN I can’t do ALL THE THINGS?!?! WHAT ARE THESE LIES YOU SPEAK?!?!

And so I go a little crazy. And I don’t mean that in an ableist kind of ‘ha ha that’s so crazy’ kind of way, I mean like: I actually go a little mad. I overload and overload and overload my schedule until my healthy brain functioning overloads and I melt down. Folks, this is NOT a stellar way to live.

And so I’m learning to be kinder to myself. Yes, okay, I still secretly think I’m superwoman and that if I just work hard enough and be more organised and come up with more efficient Ways of Being then I really can have it all, but I’m learning not to beat myself up for mistakes, not to dwell or stew, I’m teaching my thoughts to move on past obsessive cyclical patterns (6 months of cognitive behavioural therapy in 2012, I’m looking at you, thanks), and I’m learning to take a business-minded approach to mistakes.

What do I mean by that?

If you’re into small business (or big business, I guess), or inventing, or creating, or designing especially, or whatever, you know that a lot of the process involves fast prototyping. Fail fast, fail early is one motto I heard that really gets it. Fundamentally, it’s an acknowledgement that, say in design, your first ten, twenty, thirty ideas are basically going suck. So you get through those as fast and as efficiently as possible so you can get to the good stuff. Fail fast, fail early, so then you can succeed.

Looking at mistakes with a business mind also means assessing their effects. Instead of dwelling on ‘oh, I should have done this, I should have done that, what do they think of me, I’m such a fool’, etc, it’s a quick 3, 2, 1:

3: Rank the actual, tangible results out of three: 1 = no one got hurt; 2 = maybe someone got hurt moderately, or a few people got hurt a little; 3 = someone got hurt a lot, or a few people got hurt moderately. (Bonus points for 4 = someone is dead.) And yes, you have to apply this scale to emotional hurts as well, but you have to apply it accurately. No inflating the number because your anxiety is telling you that you suck and that bad things might happen. (And yes, this can apply to things too, like okay, I dented the cover of my favourite book, that’s a 1; I accidentally lit the kitchen on fire, that’s a 3, possibly a 4 depending on how ‘dead’ the kitchen now is.)

2: You have two options now: decide you don’t care about the people that got hurt (Which, legitimate! Example: Toddler is being obnoxious and won’t do The Thing. I mean to speak nicely but am tired and cranky, so I snap and demand that The Thing be done. For me, this qualifies as a mistake, albeit a common one 😛 Toddler is now hurt, but you know what? Tough freaking luck, because you don’t have to want to do The Thing, you just have to do it. You can’t be an effective parent/boss/teacher/mentor/human if you only care about never making others sad.) –> 1, do nothing; or decide you do care, –> 2, do something. Note that there is no option here that says ‘care, but also do nothing’. You care, you do something. You don’t care, you don’t do something. End.

1: Move on. That’s it. No options here. Just, assess the level of damage, either do something towards fixing it or don’t, and move on. 3, 2, 1.

So what prompted this little discussion here today? Buh-bing! You guessed it! Amy made a mistake. I was contacting a book for school, and when I went to seal in the back cover, I accidentally sealed in the back page as well >.< Book contacting is one area where my (actual, literal, though I don’t have a diagnosis) OCD tendencies run rampant: I HATE poorly contacted books. It is actually physically uncomfortable. But you know what? I took a deep breath, and 3-2-1’ed: The book was not destroyed, I didn’t care about the book’s feelings anyway, so it was time to move on.

And that, my lovelies, is how you win the battle against raging perfectionism: one baby step at a time.

None of us are superheroes; that’s what makes us great. <3

PS I totally made that 3-2-1 thing up as I was typing, but it WORKS, and I really LIKE it, so YAY ME! <3

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