“You’ll be fine! Just go have some fun,” my Mom said as she dropped me off at my first-ever soccer game.
I wasn’t so sure about that.
First of all, I didn’t like jumping into new things if I thought there was a chance I wouldn’t be good.
And I was pretty sure I was going to royally suck at this.
You see, my mom had completely forgotten about the fact that she had signed me up for Summer soccer league. It had entirely slipped her mind until several weeks into the season.
Second of all, I felt like a complete outsider.
The other 7-to-8 year old kids all knew each other and had plenty of practice under their belts.
But I was walking into unknown territory.
Not only was it my first day ever stepping onto the soccer field…but it just so happened to be GAME DAY.
Oh, how I pleaded with my Mom to take me home. I was terrified of looking stupid and likely making a fool of myself.
But my earnest pleas fell on deaf ears: against my wishes, I ultimately found myself on that soccer field.
Shame Turns Mistakes into “I am Bad”
Well, as you may have guessed, that first soccer game didn’t go so well for me.
In fact, my first attempt at making a play that day was a shame-filled event I’ll never forget.
As the ball came hurling toward me, my natural instincts told me to grab the ball (dodgeball-like-style) and hold it high over my head to prevent my opponents from stealing the ball.
MAN, WAS THAT A MISTAKE.
- I can still remember the humiliation I felt as the referee blew his whistle and came running over.
- I can still see the heated anger written across my teammates’ faces.
- I can still picture the girl’s accusational finger-pointing as she screamed, “SHE TOUCHED THE BALL!”
I was so ashamed and embarrassed. Holy crap, how I wanted to disappear.
That day on the soccer field, I made a vow to never feel like that again.
My moment of embarrassment on the soccer field was one small blip in my childhood.
But the shame of that traumatic event scarred me so deeply, it set into motion a fear-based belief system that fueled my actions for years.
Traumatic Event Turned Misbelief
The shame-filled story I created that day sounded a little like this:
“YOU CANNOT MAKE MISTAKES. Mistakes mean failure, embarrassment, and disappointment. You must avoid making mistakes at all cost.”
My child self believed avoiding mistakes was a way to protect myself. But in hindsight I can see it only caused me more harm than good in the end.
For example, it:
- Prevented me from trying out new things just for fun
- Pressured me to “always get it right” and perform to the highest of standards
- Talked me out of participating in things where I might be the “weak link” and may let others down
- Pushed me down a self-mutilating shame spiral anytime I confronted failure
Now I can see there are flaws in the old “mistakes = you’re a failure” script from my past.
So, I choose to REJECT that line of thinking.
Instead, I now choose to give myself permission to make mistakes.
You with me, Friend?
Change the Script
How about you, Friend?
Do you have an old tape singing the tune of “mistakes mean failure, so they need to be avoided at all cost?”
If you’re like me and you white-knuckle failure avoidance, you’re definitely not alone.
A lot of us struggle with failure. Especially since we live in a “look at me” culture where many love to put their “best” on display.
But Friend, I encourage you to join me in embracing a new story when it comes to mistakes. How ’bout we get behind a more self-compassionate way of talking to ourselves, such as:
- I’m proud of myself for showing up: it takes courage to try something new.
- Mistakes are opportunities to learn, grow, and change.
- I give myself permission to try new things – no “successful” outcome required.
- I give myself permission to do things simply because they sound fun. I do not need to be great, let alone exceptional.
- Oops! My bad! I learned my lesson and I’ll do better next time.
- I can only fail if I stop trying, so I choose to pick myself back up and begin again.
Old scripts are stubborn.
So, it will likely take time and some practice before our “new stories” sound more believable than the old worn-out tales we’ve been telling ourselves for years.
But Friend, it’s completely possible (and oh, so worth it!) to rewire our brains to think differently.
So, reject that old mentality anytime you hear yourself thinking, “mistakes mean I’m a failure.”
Choose to lean into compassionate and take on a growth mindset instead.
What Old Tapes Do You Need to Discard?
We all have old tapes informed by past hurts and misinformation that play on loop in our subconscious.
The good news is we can eject those tapes and start singing another tune.
To do so, however, we need to bring awareness to the flawed beliefs that aren’t serving us.
One of stories that I personally needed to rewrite was that “mistakes are bad.”
How about you?
Do you need to change how you talk to yourself about mistakes?
What other old scripts are you listening to that could stand to be updated (or perhaps, even discarded)?
If a belief doesn’t serve you, it’s time to start singing a different tune.