That’s the number of times in this life you will probably do the “wrong” thing. It’s the number of times you’ll say something totally awkward, the number of times you’ll be the one who smells funky, or maybe even then number of times you laugh at inappropriate times. Like at a funeral. Or during a baptism.
We know, logically, that we make mistakes. We understand that falling is part of learning how to sky, that getting a question incorrect on an exam is likely the reason we remember it later, that it only takes forgetting one wedding anniversary for your spouse to never let it go.
How often do we demand perfection of ourselves or others? How often do little mistakes, like leaving a light on, suddenly seem like catastrophes?
We’ve subconsciously decided and agreed with ourselves that little mistakes are worth blowing up over. We’ve unknowingly accepted that mole hills are allowed to turn into mountains. We’ve let dishes build up in the sink and stubborn weight loss goals beat down our spirits.
In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, he discusses the kinds of agreements and decisions we make with ourselves. His thought-provoking explanation stands out as he writes, “How many times do we pay for one mistake? The answer is thousands of times. The human is the only animal on earth that pays a thousand times for the same mistake.”
Even without reading the rest, you can probably relate. You might make yourself go for a run after eating an entire plate of brownies. But what about the next day when you look in the mirror at that roll behind your belly button? You’re looking at stretchmarks and love-handles, blaming yourself for something you already paid for.
Ruiz goes on to say:
“During the process of domestication, we form an image of what perfection is in order to try to be good enough. We create an image of how we should be in order to be accepted by everybody. … After domestication, it is no longer about being good enough for ourselves because we don’t fit with our own image of perfection. We cannot forgive ourselves for not being what we wish to be, or rather what we believe we should be.”
You’ve heard it plenty of times before (maybe even a bajillion): Stop chasing perfection. Set realistic, kind goals for yourself. Be compassionate with the person in the mirror.
While this is all fine and good, maybe it’s time to switch our perspective entirely. To go on a real, full-fledged diet. Like, how about the self-blame and criticism-free diet? Delicious!
I recently heard about this idea from Katie and Gay Hendricks. Basically, you make an agreement with yourself to cut out blame and criticism. Or at the very least, cut back.
If, for even one day, you cut back on criticism and blame on yourself and others, you will likely feel a sense of freedom: the freedom to be yourself.
Well, it’s not me who criticizes me! It’s other people!
Is it, though? How often do you interpret body language or tone of voice from other people in a negative way? You may think Tom is folding his arms because he doesn’t like what you have to say and that he thinks you’re stupid. Really, though, Tom is trying to quiet the rumbles in his stomach because he hasn’t eaten since 8 am. You’ve taken your personal insecurity and projected it onto others’ behavior.
You’re not a mind reader. Maybe how you interpret others’ actions is actually the way you feel about yourself. So why do you think what you’re saying is stupid? Why aren’t you supporting yourself?
So, forget gluten. Try blame-free for one day. Try it for you, your loved ones, your coworkers. Open your eyes to the fact that everybody is trying to make it through the day. Let yourself explore life without making yourself and everyone around you pay for mistakes 10 times over. Accept apologies (including from yourself) and move on.
-Catie Hall, Identity Graduate