Have you ever muttered ”what’s wrong with me?” under your breath? Or aloud? Or added expletives to it?
“What the f#*k is wrong with me?” Yep, me too.
Recently I’ve heard this question murmured a lot, mostly quietly, under one’s breath; from friends, family, clients, and even children. It was when I heard it from an 11-year old relative that I took pause.
“Nothing is wrong with you,” I said (I didn’t even know why she said it, but her tone was self-deprecating and self-scolding.)
“Why are you being so hard on yourself?”
“Because I should’ve known better. I made a mistake. It was stupid,” she replied.
“You’re 11,” I said. “You’re allowed to make mistakes. And that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you.”
I’m not sure I helped her. She’s a tough kid who had pretty high expectations of herself, even at age 11.
It was after this conversation that I started paying attention to how often I hear people saying, “what’s wrong with me?” and how often these words go through my head. I stopped counting. Suffice it to say it happens too much.
I work with high achievers and high performers. That equates to having high expectations on oneself to not make mistakes, to know things before we’ve experienced them, and to be, well, perfect. We are all aware how far perfectionism goes – it’s a dead-end to a lot of self-loathing and self-deprecation, which, essentially is what we’re doing when we scold ourselves with, “what’s WRONG with me?”
It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many experiences you’ve had in your life – you will still make mistakes. You will still do things that perhaps you “should’ve known better” not to do, and none of these things mean anything is wrong with you. Even if you keep ending up in the same dead-end relationship or job when you “knew better” nothing is wrong with you! In fact, it means the exact opposite – it means things are right with you. You are living and experiencing new things in life. You are still learning and some lessons we need to repeatedly learn (unfortunately) and continue to make the same mistakes until we finally do know better. All of this means you are human. And humans are imperfect and flawed, and that’s what makes us beautiful.
My guess is my 11-year old relative observed someone much older than her acting in the same way she did when she made her mistake. I could be wrong, but I’m betting on the fact that she learned from someone else how to scold herself for making a mistake.
So, the next time you hear yourself murmuring under your breath “what’s wrong with me?” because your beautiful human-self flubbed something up again, remember that your flubs make you who you are (wonderfully imperfect.) And, keep in mind that there may be little humans around observing your behavior. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it.
This post was originally featured on HuffPost blog on September 12, 2017