I’ve been trying to ask myself this question every morning (though realistically, I probably manage it once a week because habits are hard to form). You see, I don’t fail or admit to being wrong gracefully. Often, when I’m wrong about something, when I misspeak or accidentally mess up, I replay that event over and over and over again in my head until I have it memorized. Until it haunts my dreams. Until I can think of nothing else.
I was in a class about a month ago and one of our presenters identified with they/them pronouns. After the presentation, we as students were given terms and theories pertaining to trauma that we were then supposed to relate back to the presentation itself. I presented my thoughts, followed by another student or two. The professor interjected with a comment on our thoughts thus far and then reminded us of the presenter’s pronouns.
Immediately I panicked. Was I the one who used the incorrect pronouns? Did I misgender the presenter? Is she speaking about me? She must be speaking about me. What kind of social worker and therapist will I be if I made such a stupid and ignorant mistake?
I’m going to be honest; I don’t remember what the rest of the students said in that class. I don’t remember what else happened. I was so wrapped up in the idea that I had screwed up that I could absorb little else. I felt like a complete and total failure.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident. This happens all the time. I cannot accept when I make a mistake. Rather than being gentle with myself in these instances, I beat myself up. I cannot be wrong. I must always be right, always be perfect. Otherwise, what’s the point of existing?
But being wrong is how we learn. If we were perfect all the time, if we were right all the time…well, a) we’d be cyborgs or something, but b) we’d never grow, never morph into something better than how we started, and that would be a damned shame. Also, everyone would hate us, because really, who likes a know-it-all?
Sometimes, I don’t know in the beginning of the day what specifically I am willing to be wrong about. But that’s not the point. The point is to acknowledge and accept that I will most likely be wrong about something every single day. That I will most likely make a mistake. And who knows? Maybe I won’t. But I’m learning and growing every minute of every day, so I’m bound to make mistakes. I’m bound to mess up. I’m only human.
So maybe let’s rephrase this question. Take the specificity out of it and open the question up to anything and everything that could go wrong. To any way that we could possibly err. Even just asking that question every day serves as a reminder that it will happen. That I’m not perfect. That we’re not perfect. And that we need to be prepared to be wrong and not fixate on that wrongness, but rather reflect on the ways in which we are becoming a better version of us.
So I ask you:
Are you willing to be wrong today?
Kristy Cloetingh is a Philadelphia native who is currently trying to figure out her place in the world. Her passions include reading, singing, dancing, nature, yoga, chicken fingers, and puppies. An anorexia survivor and mental health warrior, Kristy has made it her life’s mission to remind every single person that their bodies and minds are worthy of unconditional love and respect, regardless of size, shape, or whatever “normal” is.