Melissa Dahl nailed it the other day in an article for Intellectual Takeout called ”You Aren’t That Big a Deal’: A Message the Self-Esteem Generation Desperately Needs to Hear. I’m not talking about the gist of the article as much as this first paragraph:
There is a meme that speaks directly to the hearts and minds of the overly self-conscious. Perhaps you’ve seen it; it goes something like this: ‘Brain: “I see you are trying to sleep. May I offer you a selection of your most embarrassing memories from the past 10 years?”’
I don’t know about y’all, but at night when I can’t sleep I drag up every single one of my faux pas, goofs, embarrassing moments and throw them in my face. I’m a poster child for an introvert, so I guess I’m overly self-conscious.
At first I thought I would counter this almost nightly assault by saying something to myself like, “It’s okay, Karen, you’ve learned from this.” Unfortunately, there were plenty of moments when I didn’t learn anything other than that I can be a colossal ass from time to time.
Then I fastened onto the idea of positive self-talk. “You are not your past. You are your present.” Repeat, rinse, repeat. Well, that didn’t work for beans. I was still drenched in self-shame to the point it felt like night sweats.
Somewhere along the way I stopped caring. Or maybe it was that I had flogged myself enough. Now when I get those memories I just mentally shrug. I might say to myself, “Oh, who gives a rat’s ass?” More often, though, I roll my eyes and say, “Well, I don’t have to go through that moment again, thank God.”
I’ve also gotten to the point that I realized I’m not alone. Everyone screws up. Everyone makes an idiot of themselves. Everyone has moments that still make them wince. That’s part of being human and imperfect (and I’ve yet to meet a perfect person). I’ll tell you a secret though. Those memories that are acutely sharp and repeat in perfect detail for you? Nobody else remembers them. Instead, they’re too concerned about their own mistakes.
I think that’s the point of Ms. Dahl’s article. That we aren’t special; that we’re all part of the whole. That being human brings about some undeniable truths of life: thou art flawed, honey bunny. Go forth and screw up. (But try not to agonize about it too much.)