I was recently invited to play on a bad-ass women’s tennis team. Wanting to make a good impression, I volunteered right away to practice doubles with a group of women. Got a babysitter and everything.
On the night of practice, I got to the tennis club ten minutes early. Nobody there… “Strange,” I thought as I checked my phone to see if I had the time right.
That’s when I noticed — to my horror — that I was at the WRONG club. They were waiting for me at another club 30 minutes away.
So I called one of the players to explain. I told her I would be there as quickly as I could. Court times are only an hour and fifteen minutes so I knew the three players waiting for me were going to lose much of their court time waiting for me.
I started franticly towards the other club when I realized my teammate had left her phone on. “I told her to get here,” she was telling another teammate in an irritated voice, “we need a fourth. So annoying.” I guess she must have thought she hung up. Ugh.
On the way to the club my car started beeping loudly and a warning light started to flash on and off, on and off. I couldn’t get it to stop and I couldn’t figure out what the warning meant. It’s a brand new car — I don’t know what all these buttons mean!
I didn’t want to drive for another half hour with the mystery beeping… Was I going to break the car? Was I in some kind of danger? I didn’t know. So I pulled over and called my annoyed teammate again. No answer.
Mortified, I left an apologetic message that I was now having car trouble. Eventually, with the help of my husband, I learned I had accidentally put the car in low 4 drive ( I still don’t even know what that is). As soon as I clicked it of that setting the beeping stopped.
All to say that I felt like a COMPLETE AND TOTAL IDIOT that night. Not only did I get the place wrong, my “car trouble,” was just me hitting the wrong lever on my new car and not knowing how to fix it.
My teammates who all took time out of their lives to play doubles, couldn’t, because — thanks to my screw up — they didn’t have enough players.
This is an approval addict’s worst NIGHTMARE — my worst nightmare! I go out of my way to be on time, get my appointments right, respond to emails, you know, all that stuff in my control as NOT to annoy, put anyone out, or cause any sort of inconvenience. All so I do not under any circumstance give other people a good reason to judge me. Hell, there’s enough reasons already without me getting the damn time wrong.
And let me tell you, I wanted to crawl out of my skin.
There must be something in the stars because I did it AGAIN yesterday. This time, a family member called to make sure my family could attend his daughter’s birthday party. I checked my calendar and gave him the green light. Told him we would be able to go, asked to start in the afternoon.
Then yesterday — once again to my horror — I realized I didn’t have something important on my calendar. It was one of those moments you recall in slow motion where you frantically text your friend while looking at your calendar. One of those moments when you hope to GOD that you didn’t just fuck everything up by double booking.
As luck would have it, my Goddaughter’s Quinciniera — the one my friend has been planning for a year — was on the exact same day at the exact same time (as per my request) as the other party. My kids were supposed to participate in the ceremony.
So I texted said family member to let him know I had made a big mistake, and that we wouldn’t be able to attend his daughter’s birthday party. It was my mistake. I should have put the Quincineiera on the calendar.
He was livid. You need to know that this family member has been going through A LOT. He really wanted me and the family to be there for him this day. I got the impression it was more than just a birthday party. We — I — let him down.
All of this is true, one hundred percent. But his anger led him to say ugly things to me, about me. I became his punching bag for the shitty, messed up, horrible year he’s been having.
I wanted to explain myself. Stand up for myself. Get him to see my side. To NOT think horrible things about me.
But I knew he was going to stick to his story about me, he was making that clear in the cascade of ugly text messages he was railing off at me while I was trying to watch This Is Us. So I blocked his texts because — yeah I messed everything up, I let him down, I hurt him — AND it doesn’t give him a free pass to beat me over the head with it or use my failures against me as a weapon.
Here’s the point:
We mess up sometimes, don’t we? I do. And I know you do too.
The worst thing in the world to someone addicted to other people’s approval is to give them a good reason to judge. We’d rather deny our mistakes, or make someone else wrong or desperately try to get them to understand us or —hell with it— bribe them with Starbucks cards to win their favor.
But sometimes, my friend, we have to sit in it. By “it” I mean the knowledge that other people are unhappy and even suffering because of us — our mistakes, our oversight, our disorganization, our messy humanity.
After I got back from my failed attempt to make a good impression with my new teammates, I did the same thing I did last night after I let down my family member…
1) I forgave myself.
Then I used whatever tools I had to give myself some love. I slathered myself with essential oils — Rose for self-love and Bergamot for self-acceptance. I meditated. I prayed. I chanted “I’m sorry. Please forgive. I love you. Thank you.” Over and over.
2) I apologized.
I didn’t succumb to the urge to explain myself in the desperate attempt to get the other side to form a positive impression of me. (Although I did consider bribery. If I buy everyone a Starbucks card will they forgive me?) But I tried to take responsibility like a big girl.
3) I tried to learn from it.
I asked myself things like “How did this happen?” “Where did this go wrong?” “How can you avoid this in the future?”
4) I set boundaries.
Sometimes when you screw up, you just make a bad impression. Sometimes you really piss someone off. And sometimes you hurt people. None of this means you have to take abuse. I repeat, your mistakes do not give other people the green light to mistreat you. Block, unfriend, walk away.
5) I *try* not to stew
I will go over and over and over things in my mind — should I send a card, hell no I shouldn’t send a card, I should have texted him back, I should have read the email — what was I thinking?! — which leads to near-crippling levels of anxiety and lowers the hell out of my energy. When I catch myself, I try to do things that raise my energy — think of things I’m grateful for, say ho’oponopono, or even better, put it all into perspective by watching an episode or two of I Survived Beyond and Back. I *might* eat a few peppermint patties while watching.
In the end, once again, it comes back to love. Sometimes unconditional self love means letting them judge you. If they don’t have it in their hearts to forgive, then, honey, they aren’t worth the energy.
Bottom line: we are all humans, having a human experience which means we fuck it up sometimes.