Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your mistakes? Don’t answer that. We all have.
Stepping Away From Yourself
As a chronic insomniac, I lie awake many nights with nothing in particular on my mind. I watch the hours tick past and the sky lighten outside as I wait for sleep. This is a problem, sure, but one I can deal with.
Sometimes, however, I lie awake for a completely different reason.
We’ve all made stupid mistakes. We’ve thrown away chances, made fools of ourselves, and just not been the best people we could have been. I’m sure I’m not alone in the feeling of all of those mistakes piling up at once, crushing me in regret and embarrassment. Please tell me I’m not alone in the feeling.
Sometimes it hits me at random times: I’ll be walking along, minding my own business, when my brain decides to remind me of the time in middle school when I thought it would be a good idea to… never mind. I’ll die of shame if I share that story.
As a sensitive person, it’s easy to let the paralyzing fear of screwing up prevent me from living a fulfilled life. I mean, what if I get it wrong? How do I get up and keep trying after accidentally letting the goats loose at the county fair when I was just trying to get some nachos?
I close my eyes.
I picture myself, many years from now, as a capable adult with none of the hang-ups I have now. I’m older, successful, probably married with children, miles away from my awkward teenage years. This version of me thinks back on the way I am now with fondness and good humor, remembering the mistakes she made when she was me, but it doesn’t bother her anymore.
I picture myself many years after that, looking back on a life well lived despite the mistakes. I find joy in telling my grandchildren the stories of an awkward young adult, decades ago, just trying to find her way in the world. The kids laugh at their grandma’s goofy stories, agreeing to each other that they’ll never be so ridiculous as I was. I’ll just smile to myself, knowing that they’ll be making their own hilarious mistakes soon enough.
I picture myself after these mortal trials are over, having finally reached the goal I’d been seeking all my life. I’d be lounging in the spirit world with my childhood cat curled up on my lap, thinking fondly of all the times my silly mortal body made a complete fool of herself. I’ll remember every embarrassing moment, every time I thought I would die of shame, and I’ll smile and roll my eyes at how those mistakes taught me important lessons that I didn’t realize at the time.
When I open my eyes, I’m still an awkward young adult with a penchant for getting lost and tripping over things, but it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. After all, what does it matter to an angel?
I’ve found that this technique works in a number of situations. I am hardly the poster child for positive stress management techniques, and I tend to forget my own name when I’m under pressure. When I’m overwhelmed with stress and responsibilities, I’ll step away rather than collapse.
A change of pace can bring a feeling of renewal and the serenity to cope with a hectic life-style. A short interlude amid the beauties of nature, a few minutes in quiet thought, reading a good book, doing anything we particularly enjoy (including nothing) for a while—all can help when the pressure intensifies. -Ensign, 1990
Gaining perspective is especially important for women like me, who tend to attach emotionally to sources of stress. Just don’t forget to step back into your responsibilities when the break is over. Otherwise, it’ll turn into one of those stupid mistakes.
(I will neither confirm nor deny the truthfulness of the goat story.)