So we all make mistakes. Every single one of us. Sometimes they are big and obvious. Sometimes they are subtle and small. But regardless of the size or shape, it’s still a mistake. And it still makes us feel yucky.
So if we all make mistakes and we all can recognize that they make us feel like crap, how come others often seem to LOVE finding them for us? They seem to LOVE to let us know how we’ve messed up. They seem to LOVE to ensure that we know that we are wrong and that they are right.
There are two reasons why people often insert themselves into our mistakes. The first reason is often because finding a mistake makes someone feel smart. Think about when you find a typo in a book. Or maybe lots of typos. You likely say something like, “Geez, even I could see that typo! But so-and-so missed it and I found it!”
This sort of thing validates our intelligence, our importance, our usefulness, and our worth. And what validates it even further is to let the offender know that he or she has screwed up.
Another reason others seem to love finding our mistakes is that it helps them to feel less alone and that they are not the only ones to screw things up. If we take the typo example, after that moment of “Ha! I found it and they didn’t!” something deeper is often felt. Because if a book is published with typos, that means a lot, and I mean a LOT of people missed it. And if they, people who are paid to not miss things like that, can make a mistake and send a book with obvious errors to print, maybe everyone truly does make mistakes. Maybe you are not the only one.
Here’s the deal. We (or at least most of us) are all doing the best we can at any given moment. But this doesn’t mean that your best is the same as Joe’s best or the same as Sally’s best. Everyone’s best will look different. But that does not make anyone smarter or better or anything really. It just makes us different. Yet we hang so much judgement on what’s “best”. And best is really subjective.
Albert Einstein wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Now, what would happen if these “others” that we are talking about, you know, the ones that LOVE to point out your mistakes, what if these folks (and at times likely you too) spent less time looking for other’s mistakes and more time working on themselves?
And what if when someone does tell us about our mistakes, we remember that they are doing so for a reason. And the reason is likely not because they are an asshole, although this may be the case in some circumstances. They are likely just trying to get a need met. And that need is to feel smart, valuable, and maybe better than someone else.
We are all better than someone else at something. Mistakes are nothing more than opportunities for us to learn something, even if that something is that we are not good at whatever it was we were doing when we made the mistake. Or maybe that we went too fast. Or maybe that we were being careless.
Mistakes are a part of life and there is really no need to rub others’ noses in it. Because that feels like crap and nobody wants to feel like crap. And most people don’t really want to make others feel like crap anyway.
So before you call out someone’s mistake, take a pause and think about WHY you are doing it. Maybe there is a very valid and helpful reason. Maybe it’s just because you are feeling the need to feel smart.
We all make mistakes and that includes you, yes YOU. But everyone still deserves to feel smart. Everyone deserves to feel worthy. So be mindful when both pointing out someone else’s mistake to them and when someone’s is pointing out your mistake to you.
Because regardless of whatever mistakes you make, you, yes YOU are smart, important, useful, and worthy.