Why do I always have to be wrong?
There was. . . an incident last Monday night. I immediately blamed myself. It’s what I always do. It’s what I have always done. If something has gone wrong, I must be responsible.
I felt like crap. It was a big issue. Big. BIG. I placed a commensurately big amount of blame on myself. I loaded it on, pressed it down and then piled on some more. I drove home late at night, very nearly crushed under the blame I piled on myself, I carried myself, I manufactured for myself.
I did tell you that no one was blaming me?
The truth was, it wasn’t my mistake. Oh, I did something that might have compounded it, but only because I didn’t have the right knowledge in the first place. Several people who were far smarter than me, who were far better paid than me, they looked at it, and they didn’t see the issue with the initial data. Not only was it not my fault, but it wasn’t my team’s fault. We did nothing wrong. The people who sent us the information didn’t tell us something critical.
I was very nearly about to tell you that they screwed up. That’s kind of the whole problem. I have, for very nearly all of my life, lived with a binary approach to wrongness. It was either me or them. I either I screwed up or they did. I suppose, at some level, that makes sense. Fundamentally, when there’s an error, one of those conditions is true.
Here’s the thing. I’m fine when others screw up. Sure, I might be annoyed, or even downright angry, but I don’t beat people up. Find the problem, fix it and move on.
Except not quite. I hold it as a tally. Not against them, but against myself. Because when I screw up? Well, that’s when I go into full on blame mode. I assure you, no one could ever be harder on me than I am on myself.
So, driving home in the car that night, I had this thought. Why do I assume that when something goes wrong, it’s automatically my fault? Why do I assume that I screwed up, why am I so quick to volunteer to take the blame? Why is it always about me?
And more than that – let’s be real. If I treated other people the way I treated myself – if I always assumed they were stupid, incapable, held on to the slightest of slights, a word uttered in a sarcastic tone, a measurement they didn’t quite meet that no one told them about, if I assumed that they were one wrong move away from career anihiliation – that would be terrible, wouldn’t it? More than that, it would be abusive.
When I think back to Calgary last week, I mostly think about how I failed – no – make that FAILED.
It was a high stress situation. It was probably the highest stress situation I’ve ever seen in this company. 3 years worth of work, very major changes went through that day. I had no idea how it would go, and these people are new. In hindsight, it was a receipe, for not disaster, but for hurt feelings.
I volunteered to help, and in truth, what I was supposed to be doing wasn’t made very clear to me. I pitched in where I saw a need, and it feels like it blew up in my face. I have spent just over a week blaming myself for being wrong. For not understanding, for not reading the unspoken words.
Everything when it comes to work is black and white. I’m either meeting a need, or not. I’m either right or I’m wrong.
And, as you may have guessed, it’s exhausting. It’s a terrible, horrible, no good way to live. I know that much – I know that this isn’t working for me, or at least the lengths I carry it to aren’t working. This behaviour makes it very hard to be me.
It’s time to start thinking about this. It’s time to start doing something about this. I’m tired of living like this.