“Everyone makes mistakes.” Isn’t this what you hear when something goes badly? The problem with mistakes is oftentimes they don’t go away. You can fix certain choices you made with more action. You have to live with the consequences of your error.
In this post, I write about my thoughts regarding those mistakes you probably can’t fix. I’ve written about something similar in another post.
Mistakes happen even when you’re careful
There’s the big “F-” word that comes out when you realize you screwed up.
As a miniature hobbyist (check out what this is here), I apply paint to miniature figures. The models are blank canvases, devoid of color. Often, I jump right in and paint with whatever color I feel is “right’ at the time.
But, when I need to fulfill a job for a client, I have to follow instructions. These instructions are detailed.
I’m good at following instructions.
For example, with a good recipe, I can cook up tasty meal (usually). If the cookbook is poorly written, I have to make things up: improvise.
In daily living, there are no specific instructions. Sure, when you were a child, your parents or authority figures gave you specific actions and feedback on what to do. As an adult, things aren’t so easy.
Maybe, this uncertainty in how to approach life, e.g., meeting some vague expectation, is why 1-in-5 adults suffer with a mental illness (source).
We are stressed about the possibility of making unfixable mistakes.
Chronic regret is a pathological symptom of something deeper
When you make a mistake, regret is the ultimate sign you’ve acknowledge failure.
There is no fixing things with certain mistakes you make in life.
Using a tangible example: when I’m painting a miniature and I realize my color choice is poor, I’m face with two options.
- Go back and start over
- Do the best going forward and live with it.
I’ve made a ton of unfixable mistakes. Some small, some huge.
In every case, I have been faced with the same two choices.
Do I try to go back and start over, or do I go forward (learning the “lesson”) and live onward?
This is the dynamic tension every person faces.
As someone who tends to want to control my environment, the smallest error bugs the crap out of me. Some might describe this is as the first tickle of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I would agree.
And, I would diagnose that sense of “looking back constantly” as more insidious.
The compulsion to rehearse errors, mistakes, and re-play those moments again and again, has another name: anxiety.
Anxiety: living with the need to meet expectations
Fear drives anxiety.
Biologically, we are built to be afraid of things in our environment that may endanger our well-being. It’s natural.
But, it’s not an excuse for living in a state of continual fear.
Anxiety triggered by the knowledge of failure for one’s shortcomings is ridiculous!
For me, anxiety arises when I am in a situation that I cannot control, or when I’m at risk of making a mistake that cannot be fixed.
For my now humorous example:
I booked an airline flight to a foreign country for work, and I forgot my passport. Good thing I arrived 4 hours early to the airport right? I can simply drive home and grab the document.
NO! I locked the passport in a bank safe, and they were closed on Sunday.
Bottomline: I can’t fix the problem, and my strategy to get to my destination required asking my boss for another $2500 to re-book the ticket for the next flight out.
I ended up okay with that above example. I was given the luxury of throwing money at the problem. But for those few hours and next few days, I fretted about every little small thing.
Every potential issue became HUGE for me.
It was debilitating. My productivity sucked. My mind blanked out. Guilt, regret, whatever the feelings associated with error haunted me.
And, yet I survived.
Do you live with anxiety symptoms constantly?
Living with the constant repetitiveness of those negative thoughts puts you in a fog. I know that people experience regret and negativity, differently.
I am learning that I get intensely focused when I’m in a mindset of negative thoughts (this description seems so cliche). It’s more like a dense cloud that stops me in my tracks (the train of thought kind of “tracks”).
Afraid to fail. Where does this fear come from? Culture? Upbringing?
It’s an issue.
How I’ve lived with mistakes
Everyone at some point or another has one. Some have great, healthy strategies for alleviating stress or anxiety. Others still need work; and other yet still need a lot of help.
Some turn toward illicit substances to drown the feelings, to mask the issue.
What do you turn toward to hide/mask/cover/run-from the problem of over-thinking your shortcomings?
I think I’m driven to overcome my shortcomings with achievement.
You may think this is on the side of “healthy” or at least “socially acceptable”. But, it’s a major issue I think for me. This instinct to keep going hard by all means necessary also means I’m never satisfied.
I want more all the dang time.
What is ridiculous is that I know that all efforts for coping with stress and anxiety is that it’s a band-aid. A flimsy device that covers up a wound that never heals.
The blood keeps seeping.
I have shortcomings that I know aren’t real. How do I know this? They are in my head. There is no evidence I’ve failed at a particular part of something. I have a make-believe problem. My imagination is both a friend and enemy.
There is no evidence of an actual shortcoming or “mistake”.
But, here’s the other problem: in other cases, the mistakes are real and unfixable.
I’ve experienced errors in my life I’m not ready to share.
There are real and fake mistakes. Distinguishing between the two kinds of “mistakes” is exhausting.
Real or fake news? How do you work out the Truth about yourself?
This is is a kind of paralysis. You think and think, and no solution comes to mind. Trying to solve the unsolvable is a huge time-waster. Energy poured down a black hole.
The successes from doing things that require intense effort is likewise a time-waster if the goal is to cover-up a fake shortcoming. Achievement has no meaning if it is only to cover-up a fake shortcoming.
I live with both fake and real mistakes and successes.
Maybe this is true for a lot of people.
Life is not a spreadsheet
You can’t add up the negatives and positives to get a final “YOU” grand total.
This is why life is hard as you get older. You seem to gather all these negative and positive values and place it into a tangible record somewhere.
Then, you look at this record and think, “this is column lacks something”. Let’s re-balance my life so that this part of myself looks better, more fulfilled.
This is a crazy way to live. There is no room for error. There isn’t a good place to put other unexpected things on a spreadsheet like this. Things like a great relationship or a beautiful sunrise have unpredictable and powerful value.
But, where do such intangible live in this spreadsheet. It’s much easier to ignore them, or disregard the things that add unpredictable (but priceless) value to your life.
To me, this is the problem with trying to track you life’s positives and negatives.
My success and failures should have no bearing on my well-being. My peace-of-mind should be dependent on more than just myself.
It’s not about me, me, and me.
I think turning outward to the world and community around (as mundane and cliche as it sounds) is a key part about living more peacefully with yourself.
Final perspective: living with mistakes
Of course, all my thoughts here are personal take on mistakes, anxiety, shortcomings. That’s all it is.
Me, turning inward for a short while and punching the keys. Writing it all out.
The site is dedicated to hobbies and whatever else strikes my fancy. The big picture of course is that the site is a sliver of a life filled with ups and downs.
Some posts are more out warding commercial, others personal, and hopefully somewhere in between this is where I am expressing myself.
Ultimately, I’m living to try and find the Truth of what is real about me. And, I’m starting to realize the key is not within me.
Only the perfect live in peace. This road to self-discovery is imbued with danger.
I’m dying everyday to find out what’s next.