Always Wrong

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.



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5 Responses to Always Wrong

  1. Maureen says:

    My dad was heavily into “quality improvement” or “risk management”. A lot of his job was to look at “system failures” and then try come up with a way to prevent it from happening in the future. He particularly liked talking about “Six Sigma” and how it can be useful in many fields. Our fields are not remotely related, and I have an interest where it was his job), but it is something I ponder.

    Getting to my point, it is RARE that major/large failures are the pure responsibility of ONE person. That is why for the most part it is call “SYSTEM failures”. One person might have a larger role, but usually other people are involved. It is why in a lot of “risk management” and “quality improvement” it is taught that ANYONE who has a question about why or how or if something is correct should be encouraged to speak up AND to be listened to/looked into. From the “big bosses” (whoever they might be), the “designers”, the “implementers”, to the person making copies who reads something that just doesn’t seem right. It is also that blame doesn’t really help or get you anywhere (for the most part).

  2. a says:

    Sometimes you have a career – someplace you go most days to exercise your abilities and do wonderful things. And sometimes you realize there’s more to life than having all of your highs and lows wrapped up in one endeavor. Then you may decide to just have a job – someplace you go to get some stuff done in exchange for a paycheck that allows you to do the things you enjoy.

    It’s not a bad thing to have a job instead of a career. That usually means you also have a life. Call it a realization many people find, call it an early mid-life crisis, call it whatever you like – but I’ve watched many people go through it. I like to call it maturing.

  3. debby says:

    Realizing how unfair you are being to yourself is the very first step. I’m not perfect, but I’ve come to realize that I’m a pretty sensible gal with a good heart.

    What do you think is at the root of this self blame?

  4. Andie says:

    boy I can relate to this! I remember a particular moment in grade 10 or 11, where (gasp) I only got a 70 something on a test. I was really beating myself up over it – you could call it abusive. Suddenly I realized I was not being a good friend to myself. If someone spoke to me the way I was speaking to myself, I would know they were not a true friend and I would not pursue the friendship. I would never treat a friend or family member the way I was treating myself at that moment.

    That was a defining moment for me. I tend to be overly critical etc still, but can stop myself to channel differently, to rephrase. You can frame it in a spiritual-religious context, with how incredibly precious you are to God etc. – which I do spend time thinking about – but the Desiderata expresses it beautifully also, I think … something like

    ‘beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.’

    I just looked up the whole context and here it is with more of the Desiderata – maybe about halfway through:

    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself.
    You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.

  5. Natalie says:

    That is so exhausting. 🙁

    I know what you mean about the tally, though. I blame myself hard, but if I can remember how other people have screwed up, then at least it feels like I can let myself off a little bit… it reminds me that no one is perfect.

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