I resolve to keep things in perspective.

One of my resolutions is “Remember how little most things matter in the long run.” Also, I’m trying to be less defensive when I make mistakes.

I hate to be wrong, I hate to screw up, I hate to forget to do something – and it really bothers me when I do. I want to bore everyone with my endless explanations, justifications, and excuses.

This came up last night. At the Second-Grade Parent Social at the Big Girl’s school, a friend asked me if the Big Girl’s birthday party was going to be a surprise.

“No,” I said (what chucklehead, I wondered, would give a surprise party for an eight-year-old?). “Why do you ask?”

“Because the invitation says ‘Surprise,’” my friend explained, very nicely.

“Yes,” someone else chimed in. “I wondered about that.”

“Oh, my gosh, really? Does it? No,” I answered. “it’s not a surprise! With all the invitations I wrote, how did I manage not to see that?” I did laugh it off, but before long I raced home to look at the card. Sure enough, right at the top, it says, SURPRISE!

I immediately sent an email to class parents, with the subject head, “The surprise is on ME”:

Hello all – somehow, I did not notice that our birthday-party invitation has “SURPRISE” written on it.

How this is possible, I don’t know – but the party is NOT a surprise. Sorry.

What can I say? I feel like an idiot.

Hope to see you there! Gretchen

I’m sure no one cares – except to be relieved that there’s no danger that their seven- or eight-year-old is going to spill the beans – but it rattled me far more than it should have.

Why let it bother me? It was a silly mistake, but it made me feel defensive, anxious, out of control.

I keep reminding myself of the commandment, “Let it go.” In the long run, this doesn’t matter at all. In the short run, this doesn’t matter at all. In fact, it will probably be a funny story that we’ll be telling for twenty years.

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  • peter vajda

    Because of the ways we were raised, everyone, we all have grown up with the fear of being “bad” or “wrong”. This imprinted childhood fear, now characteristic of us as adults, plays out countless times during the days, weeks, months years.
    One of the benefits of personal growth work is arriving at a point where we can be free of this fear and view an incident, event, circumstance, or experience as “energy-free” (as the Buddhists say), i.e., it is what it is…without the reactive need to judge ourselves as “bad” or “wrong” or interpret others’ (real or imagined)reactions or judgements in a way that we make ourselves feel “bad” or “wrong.” You’re correct…in the long run it doesn’t matter…the challenge of personal growth and spiritual awareness is to arrive at the point where we are judgment-free of our self right here and right now, in every experience, in every moment.

  • KCCC

    First, just want to say how much I’ve been enjoying your blog. We seem to share a lot of the same issues/perspectives – or at least, a lot of what you write resonates with me.
    On the topic… I consider myself a “recovering perfectionist” and also hate to be wrong or fail. Recently I’ve been re-considering that, sparked in part by this podcast “In defense of failure” (link to transcript): http://everydaysystems.com/podcast/episode.php?id=22
    Hope you find it useful. I did.

  • Michelle.I

    This story made me really laugh–both at the circumstance and myself. To THIS day, probably 10 years later, I still get mad at myself for a poster I put up using “you’re” instead of “your” for a thing at work. I knew the difference, unlike some people, but simply got busy and hurried instead of checking myself. When I think of the person who informed me of the error, my cheeks still go red.
    Okay, so mistakes happen and we all make them. You are so right that it won’t matter at all in the long run!
    I will say this…I have noticed that the majority of my mistakes, falls and clumsy accidents occur when I rush. I am now working to stop the “noise” in my head and rush less which has had a profound impact on my psyche and, as a side benefit, I’m not quite as much of a “hurricane.”
    As always, thanks for a good story and a good blog!

  • Erika

    This is a point I also really need to keep in mind. One of my largest faults is getting snippy at my husband when he points out that I’m wrong. From there sometimes escalates into an argument… all because I forget to just let the unimportant stuff slide.

  • Gretchen you think you hate to screw up? Try being a freakin’ ORGANIZING EXPERT for a living. Yikes. I absolutely hate it when I do something idiotic or I show up late to a client call (or three hours EARLY like I did last week). It doesn’t happen often but I hate when it does. However, I’ve gotten better at laughing it off and saying, “Isn’t it nice to know that even professional organizers are imperfect human beings?”

  • subguy

    I thought I was the only one using the term “chucklehead”.
    I have a hierarchy: Chucklehead, Laughing Boy, Monkey Boy. (Monkey Boy being the worst).

  • I mess up all the time – I hate details (funny for an organizer to say that, eh?) so I don’t pay attention to them enough.
    Of course it doesn’t stop me from being mortified by some of them, but then I think – if someone else judges me for my detail-ignoring gaffes then they have too much time on their hands. 😉

  • Leonie

    lol…not as embarrassing as sending your sister a 50th birthday card on her 48th birthday…by mistake! How could I miss THAT one???
    Making mistakes – being human!

  • This is something that I am working on right now. I HATE BEING WRONG. But I need to accept that fact that no one is perfect.
    I also have to learn to let go of the little things like people not always following through or helping out. I let myself get so frustrated by such tiny things that I’ve now made myself a bit of a negative person. I am working on changing my outlook on things and how I deal with everything.
    I even started a blog to help me be a better person – I’m using your book and website as a guide. 🙂

  • Cindy Balfour

    I could have written this, It so could have been me …
    I wonder why the inevitable “mistake” feels so shameful. Why do I feel more guilty that I didn’t double/triple check to avoid it in the first place. I have for so long wondered about this is it just my personality type or something in me via the trials and tribulations of childhood?

  • BethH

    I still remember the mistake I made while twirling a flag at marching contest my senior year in high school (caught on video tape, of course), and I’m 45 years old! I cringe at the very sad thing that happened when I was eight, involving me and a tiny kitten that was underfoot. I try every day to let things go, and I still wake up and sob over past regrets and mistakes. How in the world to let them go? I think I’m making progress, but they still keep coming up.

  • Judy Kisbee

    I think I have found a big secret to my personal happiness and it is related to this topic. At the age of 59 I find more and more I was getting flash backs of times that I blew it whether it was a little thing or a big thing and it would really bring me down. I would feel discouraged and beat myself up over it. Now when this happens I think about being in the present and say it is a new day today and I am going to make good choices today and it really lifts my spirits because I can deal with one day and today I can make a difference. Today I can focus on what is in store for me today without the baggage of the past and I can let the past go and I can have a good day.

  • Carol

    My mother always said, “Do your best.” And I have worked, strived to live up to that rule. Sadly, I often feel that although my action/work/whatever was the best I could do *at the time,* I really could have done a better job if I’d just tried harder/worked longer/been smarter. As a result I usually end up feeling that I am not enough — not good/smart/nice enough. I’m trying to overcome this flaw, but it sure is hard and painful. How do you feel that you’re enough?

  • Not only am I terrified of making mistakes, I’m seeing the very same pattern in my 9 year old son. I find myself giving these long explanations on why he should never beat himself up over silly mistakes. I so don’t want him to stop taking chances for fear of messing up. As I coach him, I’m trying to listen to my own words and not take life quite so seriously.

  • Barbara

    You are so right about this being a funny story, after all “The crisis of today, is the joke of tomorrow” a mantra I have used more than I like to remember