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Figuring out fallibility.

How do you handle mistakes? 

Are you kind?

Are you aware of how you treat yourself when you’ve proven the possibility that you’re fallible?

I made a big mistake this week.

Making mistakes, especially public mistakes, is one of my biggest stumbling blocks.

Or learning opportunities.

The mistake affected other people and really was an opportunity to lose face with a group I’m committed to for a cause greater than myself.

As soon as I realized my mistake, my mind started furtively looking for ways to escape the discomfort. I reminded myself that what is…is. No need to escape. I started breathing and checking in with myself. I found tightness in my chest and a sort of sick feeling in my stomach.

Old habits of self-deprecation attempted to make a foothold.  Monkey mind chatter wanted to remind me of my own irresponsibility, my inability to follow through on my commitments, my general lack of aptitude. Nasty, repetitive, disparaging thoughts.

This is an old habit.

None of these are general truths. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

This is not kind behavior.

Breathe.

Breathe some more.

Fear prompted the escape mode.  Fear of having the conversation where I had to apologize for dropping the ball. As soon as I started racing ahead to the possible outcomes of that conversation, the fear and tightness and anxiety grew.  I was not in the moment.

This caused a frantic search for socially acceptable excuses. This did not create a feeling of calm. It created more disconnect and feelings of anxiety. Trying to put slightly untruthful spin on a simple mistake just made the mistake bigger.

I returned to breathing and consciously shifted to soothing self talk. Since it was obvious I was really working hard to maintain equilibrium and stay clear, I called in outside support. Enter my darling husband, who has an uncanny knack for staying level and clear about what’s going on. This alone helped me shift out of the spin mode and focus.

It’s good to have friends that can help you stay grounded. It’s also good to  call on them when needed instead of second guessing yourself or thinking you should just be able to go it alone.

Finally, through breathing, a short grounding conversation, and stating a clear intention:

“Grace is always present. Grace will allow this upcoming conversation to flow as it should and all will be well.”

 I was able to just settle and stay in the moment.

My colleague called shortly after that. I spoke authentically. I apologized and briefly told her what happened. I conveyed my deep regret and stated what I would do to take care of my responsiblity. I was not frantic. I was not making excuses. I was speaking clearly and truthfully.

My colleague assured me all was fine; that we all make these kinds of mistakes. It was no big deal. All tension was gone because I chose to stay present and clear.

As described, I’m still not an expert at it. It took a lot of work and energy to stay on course. I’m still in the training wheels phase of handling public mistakes with aplomb. But each time I handle it well, it gets easier.

It was an excellent lesson in trusting myself.

It was an excellent lesson in being kind to myself.

I will be most curious to see how my next public mistake goes. I’m still figuring it out, but I’m betting it will be a wee bit easier.

How do you care for yourself when you’ve fallen?

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