Putting Mistakes Into Perspective


One lesson I hope I learn before leaving this earth (preferably long before) is how to react to mistakes in a healthy way.  Over the years, I’ve gotten better but I still have a tendency to shower myself with negative talk whenever I fail and let someone down.

In my last blog post, I talked about my imperfections as a writer and a runner.  I shared with you  how I let fear hold me back from participating in these two things for years.  When I finally faced my fears, I discovered that waiting on the other side was incredible amounts of joy.

Overcoming my fears as a runner and writer is different from the fears I’m talking about today.  For me, writing/running is a personal growth journey  I make mistakes. I fall short and, in the end, it’s really okay…because no one is “harmed” in the process.  I guess one could argue that my words could potentially harm others if I’m not careful but for the most part running and writing is a personal quest of facing my imperfections, improving where I can, and learning to be okay with my limitations.

But today, what still trips me up quite a bit in life is when my mistakes impact some one else. This is when the negative self talk rushes into my brain.  And, I’m not talking about huge life altering mistakes, I’m talking about little mistakes, the ones that, had I done one or two things differently, the mistake could have been avoided.  These are the mistakes that have a tendency to wrap themselves around my brain and try to convince me that I’m an awful person. You are so stupid.  Why didn’t you look closer? Why didn’t you take an extra second to think that through?  

Yesterday, in the middle of one of these particularly harsh personal berating sessions, my cell phone rang.  It was my dad.  I sighed and put my personal “time to beat Eileen up hour” on hold on and pick up the phone to hear my dad’s voice instead.

We exchange hellos and talk about the weather for a minute.

“The therapist came by today.” he says.

“Oh, yeah. How did it go?”

“We worked on getting in and out of bed and he had me up taking a few steps in the hallway.”

“That’s great, Dad. Did he have the gait belt on you?”

“Yeah, he said I did a good job today.”

My dad has been at this stage in his recovery for a couple of years now.  He hasn’t progressed any.  My dad continues to hold onto the hope that one day his brain will remember how to walk again. He continues to hope that dead limbs will come back to life.

“I sure am looking forward to seeing you, little girl.  I’ve been counting the days.”

“Yes, we’re excited too, Dad…only 3 more weeks.”

“No,” he corrects me. “2 weeks and 5 days.”

We end our conversation.  And, suddenly, the “beat up Eileen hour” doesn’t seem so pressing any more.  At that moment, I decide to not pick up the other “line” I had placed on hold prior to talking with my dad. That call didn’t have any good news to share with me today.

Leave it, Eileen.  Let it go.  Learn from it and move on.  

Question:  Any other recovering perfectionists out there who like to use themselves as punching bags?   How do you try to handle it in a healthier manner? 

7 thoughts on “Putting Mistakes Into Perspective

  1. Bill (cycelguy)

    I’m not a recovering perfectionist by any stretch, but I can still get in a few good punches now and then. one of my greatest discoveries was grace (which I know you know all about). That truth changed my life for good.

    1. Eileen Post author

      Bill, after I posted this, I realized the answer was hidden in the words. Yesterday, I chose to switch over and listen to my dad’s voice. I need to remember to that in life too. My heavenly dad is trying to get through to me too…and His good news is all about grace! Thanks.

  2. Brenda

    YES. I’m a lot better about this than I used to be, but I still have my moments. One thing that usually works is reminding myself that I can’t undo whatever I did “wrong.” Doing penance is destructive and won’t fix anything. I can only learn from it and move on (and ask forgiveness if applicable).

  3. Rick Dawson

    Choose your weapon of self-destruction – we did; check. Baseball bat, five iron, words…
    Put it down, we’re told – we rebel; normal, as we’ve been doing that since Eden.

    Really, put it down – and leave it down. There are enough voices living rent-free in our heads that we don’t need to listen to the self-abuse. No matter what, nobody will ever be harder on me than me – but the difference between self-discipline and self-abuse is more than a matter of five letters. Decades it took me to get this screwed up; patience is a necessity, not just a virtue anymore.

    Good post, as usual 🙂

  4. Jeremy Riley

    I hear you on this point, Eileen. I’ve been learning this year to give myself grace, especially when it comes to my failures– and I’ve realized that it’s difficult! I can forgive others (sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not), but it’s still hard to extend forgiveness to myself.

    I have to tell myself out loud that it’s OK, let’s move on from this learning experience. Even the best and brightest screwed up- even great heroes and heroines of the faith!


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