[Listen to me read this reflection here]
There is a fear I have of making mistakes.
I was not born with it though, I inherited it somewhere along my way through life. I know this when I look at my baby nephew, who is about to celebrate his first birthday, and see that he does have the same fear that I do.
He is crawling. He is so unaware though of how to get somewhere that he often gets stuck, in many unimaginable and cute ways. Yet that does not stop him from trying to go somewhere. In contrast, I cannot walk or drive anywhere without first looking at Google Maps, for fear of getting lost, making a wrong turn or not taking the most efficient route. I would like to get lost once in a while, to see what I might discover.
He is feeding himself. Or at least he believes that he is feeding himself, as the majority of his food ends up on him, instead of in him. It is very cute to watch, fills us with so much joy, and I feel that he is having fun as well. However, it is highly impractical, and that is why when I eat, I make sure that all of my food makes it into my mouth. If even a crumb ends up on my face or shirt, I remove it within seconds. I would like to eat like him once in a while, it looks like so much more fun.
He is talking. Well, he believes that he is talking, but to us, he is only making random sounds that we do not understand. Yet this does not stop him from continuing to try to talk, mostly to himself, and sometimes to his parents and grandparents. Since moving to Portugal, I have been slowly learning the language yet my lack of confidence does stop me from making sounds. I would like to make more sounds with my mouth, that are Portuguese like, even if they are not always right.
I begin to wonder how I became fearful of making mistakes.
School is one source. With graded assignments, tests and exams, report cards, peer pressure, getting into a good college or university, it is a pressure cooker like environment that tells me to not make mistakes.
Home is another source. If adults are scared of making mistakes, then it is expected that as a child, I would learn and observe this fear from my parents growing up.
Culture also contributes. Be it news, social media, friends, extended family, religion, laws and more, the fabric of society tells me to stick within the lines, or else.
It is no surprise then that as I grow older, I have become more scared.
There is a point in life when my fear of making mistakes peaks. Up until this point, my fears continue to increase. After this point, my fears begin to decrease.
It is a point when I become aware of the growth I have gained not from my successes, but from my mistakes.
It is a point when I see that my fear is conditioning and ungrounded, when I feel secure and know that I will be just fine when I make mistakes.
It is a point when I know in my heart that I am accepted and loved by those around me, unconditionally, and not based on what I do or who I become.
I have made many mistakes in business, in love, in health, in friendship and in society. I know that I will make many more mistakes. I also know that you will too.
Making mistakes is inevitable. It is like the rain. It is guaranteed, it is messy at times, however it is expected, needed, tolerated and accepted.
When I was in grade school, English as a subject was always challenging for me. While I did well academically in math, science, and even French, my lowest grade each year was English class, and by a large margin. My interest in reading for fun developed later in life, and as a result, my vocabulary and spelling had been weak relative to my highly educated peers in North America. It still is actually but technological advances like spell check, auto correct and search enable me to fill in the gaps effortlessly.
Since I moved to Portugal, I have observed that English is a second language for most of the people that I interact with. Be it the Portuguese, Brazilians, French, Spanish, Germans, Russians or Eastern Europeans, the majority of people in my day-to-day ‘in-person’ life learned English later in life.
Where most of my life I judged myself and believed that I was not good enough at English, I feel no judgement of the English skills of those around me.
I admire their courage for not letting their accents, grammar or vocabulary get in the way of trying. I admire my nephew who unapologetically crawls into corners he cannot get out of, baths himself in his meals or makes sounds that no one but him understands. There is a fearlessness in trying something that we do not know how to do, or believe that we are not good at.
This has helped me realize that the biggest block to making mistakes is me.
The ultimate freedom in life is the freedom to make mistakes. Without this freedom, I am not free.
I am not dependent on anyone around me to change for me. I was born with the freedom to make mistakes. I feel more open and curious, similar to how I once was as a child.