Of Pride and Pants Size

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Like anyone else, I make mistakes. Some days, it feels like I make an awful lot of them. Many of them, I fix and move on with my life. Others leave me sad and self-critical. A recent mistake got me thinking, what’s the difference with these responses and what, if any, learning could be gleaned?

After careful consideration, I realized the mistakes that leave me feeling particularly bad are the ones involving my pride. Maybe I got ahead of myself or simply thought I knew more than I did, perhaps I expressed a sentiment or offered an opinion that I should have kept to myself. Those mistakes born out of ignorance or a genuine belief that I was doing the right thing certainly don’t go unnoticed, but they don’t have the weight that mistakes of pride have. I am able to dust myself off and move on. Apologies need to be made, restitution offered, situation resolved, time to move forward.

But in those moments where pride is the problem, I go from puffed up to deflated pretty quickly. I tend to feel bad for quite a while and am not always sure how to feel better.

A very positive aspect of this is the mechanism that causes me to feel bad still works. I mess up, I get too big for my britches (which is a very common Southern expression and one that totally sums the situation up in just a few words) I hurt someone or something and I feel terrible.

In short, that’s manufacturers’ specifications – a textbook case of cause and effect.

And although I can try to fix things, it doesn’t feel like the cleanup quite gets the spill taken care of.

I think this is because a part of me knows that I didn’t just mess up. I made myself “big” where I had no right to take more space than I am allotted.

It’s possible that you don’t have any idea what I am talking about; if so, check back on the next installment of the blog and maybe that topic will better resonate. But it’s also possible that you do know this feeling and like me, you may be wondering what to do when this happens.

First, take a deep breath. You will get through this. As disappointed as you may be in yourself, this is a moment in time, not the end of the world.

Next, determine if there’s anything you can do to correct your mistake. It might be something as simple as admitting that you made a mistake and sharing that your pride got in the way. When the mistake is made from a place of pride, it is surprisingly helpful to admit that was part of the problem. (I can’t explain this but trust me; it’s a good thing. Please try it and report back.) Anyone who is at all honest with themselves will know they have done the same thing and empathize with your humanness.

Assess how you got here. Were you too quick, too harsh, too talkative, too _______? “Big and britches” comes from something being out of balance. Figure out what and get it back in line.

Next, determine how you can guard against this happening again anytime soon. (Because it will happen again, but you can make the space between these events significantly longer). Maybe you gather more information, get more context, exhibit more self-control.

Finally, shake it off. Not the learning, just the debris you collected on your mental windshield. It doesn’t do any good for you to stay in this moment. You have to move forward and start again.

I like to say, “If you don’t like the choices you made today, make new ones tomorrow.”

That’s the incredible thing about being human. As long as we draw breath, we can do more and try again. There’s always another chance at redemption.

And who doesn’t love a good comeback story?