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I can be strong today.

When I was younger, I felt physically ill when I made a mistake. I couldn’t receive criticism. If someone pointed out that I did something wrong, my stomach would drop and my throat would close. I wanted to do everything right on the first try. I didn’t want to be someone who needed a lot of help. I want to figure out everything on my own.  If I learned I was doing something wrong, I felt suffocated by failure. Truthfully, it made me hate myself. And then I would be so afraid of being wrong again, I was terrified to to try again. So I just stopped trying, hoping everyone would forget that I was not perfect.

There are times when I still feel sick at the thought of making a mistake. I was overwhelmed today at work. Right now, I have some situations that have been dragging on for too long and need action. I have other situations that need intervention so they do not escalate, which require my action as well. I thought I knew what had to be done, but as I received new pieces of information, I started to worry that I was going to do something wrong. I felt hesitant to make decisions and reluctant to act. Once again, I found myself doubting that I had the strength be a social worker. I shook my head at myself. If I made a mistake, I would fix it. Since I am a fan of cheesy self-administered pep talks I told myself, “I don’t know if I can be strong forever, but I can be strong today.”

Tonight at judo practice, I worked with another brown belt woman and a lower rank woman. As we were fitting throws, I offered my less experienced teammate some instruction to help her technique. It was a small piece, but I could tell that she felt embarrassed that she didn’t know that little tweak already. She told me she was going to fit a different throw instead. I could see that despite my good intentions, I made her doubt her ability. A part of me felt terrible, since I knew what she was feeling. In judo and jiu jitsu, people with more experience often provide you instruction. At times it can be overwhelming since you’ll receive input from a lot of different perspectives. Each time you try, you someone points out something else about your technique that needs adjustment. It’s challenging to keep focused and stay positive with persistent critiques. I did not want to break my teammate’s spirit. But the bossy school teacher in my took over and I told her, “No, stick with this throw. You can do it.” So she did, and it was better. And even if it hadn’t been better, we would help her try again. No big deal. No one ever gets anything right on the first try in judo. And if they do, wise old black belts will tell you that person just got lucky.

Fear is powerful. It can be stifling or it can be motivating. With time, I feel less afraid of failure and more mindful to dodge placing limits on myself. I am starting to think that perfection is boring. Despite its many defeats, the pursuit of perfection is far more thrilling.

 

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