I was scrolling through Pinterest just now and came across this meme: “It’s OK if you messed up today. Tomorrow is waiting for you with no mistakes in it.”
“Oh no no,” I thought, “I’ve already got all my mistakes lined up for tomorrow, thank you very much.”
There’s no avoiding them. I cannot see the future as an expanse of snow with no footprints in it… it would just mean I wasn’t there yet. I do indeed make mistakes every day, largely because I underestimate the impact I have on others, both good and bad, and I overestimate people’s capacity to understand where I’m really coming from or what I was thinking about, but that’s a difficulty we all share. Misunderstandings are rife. For instance, you might think if you laugh at a cat they won’t understand that they are being mocked… but they do. They understand mockery, annoyance, withdrawal… why wouldn’t they? We need to be as kind and polite to a cat as to a human, though they have a great sense of humour and don’t mind a bit of fooling around and play-acting.
Constant daily mistakes, then, can be due to autopilot, misunderstandings, underestimating others, underestimating your own influence, overestimating your skill (or not caring enough about quality), working too quickly, working when distracted, working or communicating when angry, etc. Mistakes are also caused by limits — limits to energy, time, patience, knowledge and understanding. We are wrong all the time; it’s a fluke if we get things right (or more right than wrong), just as we don’t always get the balance the same in a home-cooked recipe. Sometimes we put more onion and less salt in than last time, and it might be better, worse or just a bit different. It isn’t always something we can judge absolutely perfectly every time, though perhaps there are professional chefs and bakers who would disagree.
Sometimes people judge us by one mistake without knowing about all the times we get things right, and perhaps that is their mistake — or maybe it isn’t a mistake for them in their lives, as they only have limited time and energy and can’t possibly take the time to get to know every person they meet. While judging, though, we should remember not to underestimate our impact on others, as that could lead us into further errors. Perfecting our best poker face is not a bad idea.
When I was younger, I thought it would be a betrayal of ideals, morals, one’s own beliefs etc if you weren’t honest about disagreeing or disliking something, but that was before I learned how very wrong we can be every day and how very quickly we can adjust our own stance when learning all the new information we weren’t privy to before. Nothing is in completely sharp relief — there’s no such thing as ‘good and bad with nothing in between’. Also, sometimes you think everything is going to be a total mess and it won’t work out, and at the very last minute it all falls into place and is wonderful. You just never know.