Something miraculous happened to me recently.
The other night, I was typing at my laptop, responding to emails, ordering gifts for friends, and ignoring the drifts of cat fur that grow larger by the day.
Nearly a half an hour went by before I stood up and walked toward our kitchen. It was only then that I remembered: I’d left a pot of rice cooking on the stove.
“Oh no!” I yelped. “I forgot about the rice! Shoot and sugar muffins!”
(If you hang around me long enough, you’ll hear creative alternatives to swear words; it’s a holdover from growing up “so totally relig”.)
My husband Jonathan glanced up. “Do we need to get you an automatic shut off for the stove, like we have for the toaster?” he teased, with his usual wry humor.
“I guess so!” I sighed, putting my hands on my hips. “Seriously! I can’t believe I forgot … again!”
“Is it burned?” Jonathan asked, as I clicked off the stove top burner.
“I’m not sure,” I sighed. I didn’t want to look and see that I’d ruined perfectly good food. I didn’t want to have made a mistake.
And then it happened. Seven words slipped out of my mouth almost before I knew what I was saying.
“I forgive myself for burning the rice.”
That was it. But that was everything.
In that moment, I realized that my default setting had changed from shame to self-forgiveness.
Yes, I said those words with some resignation, but I said them. And even more radically, I meant them. For a recovering perfectionist, that is a huge win.
So here’s my question:
How do you treat yourself when you make a mistake?
Do you speak words of self-forgiveness, or do you get stuck in the shame and blame game?
Perfectionists like us are usually really, really hard on ourselves. We learned to demand flawlessness early on, because we thought that would keep us safe.
But sometimes the behavior that kept us safe in one situation tears us down over time. The good news is, we can recover. We can choose transformation.
Do you want to be the type of person who is harsh with herself and others, or the type who can forgive people for making honest mistakes?
Leave a comment below and let me know. Tell me what’s holding you back, and we’ll troubleshoot together. (You can also email caroline[at]awishcomeclear.com if you’d prefer.)
Here’s what I know: When you learn to be kind to yourself, a whole new world opens up.
Yours with gratitude,
PS – When I lifted the lid of the pot, the rice wasn’t burned after all. As it turned out, there was a tiny bit water left – just enough to save the whole thing.
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