I was seriously surprised at some of the mistakes I made subconsciously all the time. Obviously, none of them were huge, life-threatening mistakes, but sometimes when I look back, they seem really stupid and funny. I was mind-blown at how easy it is to lead a better life if not for these mistakes. Especially as I strive for continued self-improvement, being aware of these mistakes and avoiding them have helped me for the greater good.
1. Biased subconscious beliefs
We tend to like people who think like us, people who believe in what we believe. This is completely fine but in this process, we begin to ignore, dismiss or turn against people who don’t confirm what we already think or people who believe otherwise. More often than not, we are more biased towards ourselves.
Eg: When I’m at a signal and somebody else skips the signal, my world gets shaken. I start to believe that person to be an inconsiderate asshole for being a threat to others while saving themselves a few seconds. But if I skip the signal, I search for the right excuse to comfort myself– I’m running late, I didn’t pay attention, I am careful to not cause any threat. Same action, one is a crime while another is an honest mistake.
It’s been a while since I started challenging my own beliefs on a regular basis and I’ve been trying to be a better person that way.
I used to read and believe every anti-Gandhi article on my facebook feed. I used to be a hardcore hater of Gandhi based on my prejudice and half-baked knowledge. It wasn’t until I chose to research and read more books about him, I understood how great a person he was even though he had his share of mistakes. Nobody is perfect.
2. Perfection is an illusion
Which brings to my next point, I became sick and tired of seeking perfection. And each time I fell short of my own expectations in every field, I got upset – my school grades, my failed dates, my favorite games, my less-viewed articles, my travel plans. But it goes beyond all these, I used to believe I wasn’t perfect because I couldn’t become a top athlete, a class topper, a young entrepreneur or a great drummer. I blamed it all on myself for no reason without understanding life’s selection factors which go beyond hard-work and passion.
Eg: Professional swimmers don’t have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques. How their bodies are designed is a factor for selection and not the result of their activities.
It’s an illusion that everybody can look perfect, everybody can be a topper or everybody can be the best at everything. Without this illusion, half of advertising campaigns would not work. Imagine beauty products, ‘how to be perfect’ self-help books and exam coaching centers.
I also used to believe that being perfect would draw people closer to me. But it turns out, messing up draws people closer to you, makes you more human. Perfection creates distance and a not-so-attractive air of invincibility. My imperfections make me perfect. I’m great and happy for who I’m today. I’m striving each day to be better than who I was yesterday. And I believe it’s completely fine to make new mistakes.
3. My mistakes don’t make as much noise as I think it does
I used to believe that I was under constant scrutiny. Little did I know it was merely in my mind, and the paranoia and self-doubt that I felt each time I made a mistake did not define me. The spotlight effect states that people aren’t paying attention at our moments of failure nearly as much as we think.The first time I got on stage, I stumbled, mumbled and fumbled in front of my whole school while I made sure nobody understood a word of what I said.
It only recently struck me that nobody remembered that bloody incident except for me. When I look back at all such incidents where I failed miserably and put myself into thinking what a failure I was, I get no better reason to laugh at them now, alone. I wonder how many times I blamed myself for taking the first step without understanding where those little steps brought me today.
4. Blaming myself for every damn thing that goes wrong in my life
My ex-girlfriends broke up with me for reasons that I could never comprehend. When I was the house captain at school, my team managed to end last on both sports and cultural competitions. My quora answers never hit my expected number of views. I couldn’t get good scholarship for a course. Guess whom did I vigorously blame each time.
I focused so much on blaming myself for things that were out of my control that at a point of time, I failed to appreciate the little things in my life. I could have felt good that I learned from my past mistakes. I could have felt special that I was the chosen one to be a captain. I could have felt great that I was a decent writer. I could have felt happy that I got selected. Well, I’m working on all that.
5. Living in the future and past while not doing anything in the present
It feels great to reminisce the past and dream about the future but to lose oneself living there is something else. I rejoice at how good a multi-talented person I was – dance, drums, sports, projects etc. – during school and college days but I do nothing right now to develop my talents. I think about what would happen if my crush doesn’t like me as a person but I don’t work on fixing the fact that she doesn’t even know my existence.
Time is an investment and the thing to remember is this: I can’t get that investment back. It’s gone. I am now confident I wouldn’t let it cloud my judgement in whatever decision I’m making in this moment—let everything else remain in the past or happen in the future. I don’t have a clue about what will make me happy but I can choose to be happy.
6. I’m not who I think I’m
The way I portray myself on facebook and instagram is completely different from the way I portray myself in my social circle. I’m different at work compared to home. I’m a different person when I lead a happy life from when I lead a mundane life. I’m completely different when I’m alone and when I’m around you in a socially complex world.
I tend to judge who I’m based on my faint memories of the past and unrealistic hopes of the future. I suck at remembering how something made me feel in the past and guessing how something will make me feel in the future. I don’t have a clue about what will make me happy in the future, it’s mostly false beliefs related to imaginary experiences. When I project my future,I tend to overestimate how good things will make me feel and underestimate how bad things will make me feel.
And thus, my expectations fail and I run into this loop called ‘I’m not worthy of it.’ I’ve merely lived in an illusion that I created to define me. This particular illusion confined me in more ways than it freed me. And the beauty of breaking out of this illusion is that I can choose to be whoever I want and more importantly, forgive me for the mistakes that I think I created because I’ve been a different person based on situations.