How do you feel when you make a mistake?
I don’t mean the sort of mistake you make when you’re trying something new – like dropping a stitch when you’re knitting, or having a go at netball and being a bit rubbish at it – I mean making a mistake through sheer stupidity, or because you’ve not done something you really should have known to do.
I’m really hard on myself when I make mistakes.
I hate it. I hate looking stupid, or messing up in any way, and feel just terrible about it. I normally feel worst when it’s in some sort of professional capacity, or when I know I’m going to get told off. Actually, now I come to think about it, I suspect it’s the telling off bit I hate the most.
I can remember vividly an incident at school when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I was the biggest square at school ever, a proper smart arse. If I knew the answer to a question, which I invariably did, I just couldn’t not put my hand up. There was a part of me that felt like I’d be depriving the rest of the class of something if I didn’t share my wisdom. I’ve toned it down a bit now, but to be honest I’m still pretty much the same – when I took Bee to one of her university open days and we did a sample class, I ended up putting my hand up and answering all of the sociology questions.
How embarrassing. (For Bee, not me. I thought I was ace.)
It must have come as quite a shock to people that it turned out that I was pregnant as I collected my Headmaster’s prize for academic achievement at our GCSE presentation evening. (You see how I couldn’t not mention that??)
Anyway, where was I?
Oh yes, I was about 12 or 13, and I was in a French lesson. Our French teacher, Mr Thorne, asked us to hand in our homework and I felt the blood drain from my head – I didn’t have it. I had thought it was due in on a different date, but no one was going to believe that were they? I don’t think I had ever not done homework before, and I was mortified. I explained that I didn’t have it, and for some reason Mr Thorne decided to make an example of me.
He called me out to the front of the class, and asked me why I didn’t have my homework. I walked up, turned to face the class, and burst into tears of shame. It was not my finest hour.
Obviously regretting his decision to pursue the matter, Mr Thorne sent me back to my seat, looking rather flustered. Needless to say it did not help me develop a reputation as one of the cool kids.
25 years on though, and I still feel much the same when I make a mistake.
Last night, just before going to bed, when I should have known better, I checked up on a work project and realised I’d made a stupid mistake on something. It’s not the end of the world, but I felt such an idiot. I didn’t sleep well, I had bad dreams, and I woke up in that panicked way, where your arms and legs feel tingly and you have a sense of impending doom. I’m waiting now for a response to my apology and I feel sick. It’s ridiculous.
I went for a walk before work, because when I’m outside I feel smaller, and I get a better sense of perspective on things, but it feels so silly to be so effected by making a mistake, because nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes, we all do stupid things sometimes, it’s what makes us human.
How do you feel when you make mistakes?