Before I get into my newest revelations, I have to admit something to you.
I hate making mistakes.
I know that everyone makes mistakes.
I know that we have to make mistakes in order to learn.
I know that mistakes do not make you a bad person, they are just part of being human.
I know all of these things, and yet, my reaction to mistakes is so visceral that my rational mind hardly stands a chance against my feelings.
Generally when I figure out that I’ve made a mistake I develop a profound sense of jittery disappointment which spreads from my core to my limbs, and makes my whole body feel like a very icky place to be.
This feeling tends to fester for hours, even days sometimes.
In reaction to this feeling my mind tends to ruminate, repeating my mistakes over and over again as though any solutions I think of could magically be transferred into the past and make the mistakes disappear.
Over the years I’ve gotten better at embracing my mistakes.
Strike that, that’s a lie.
I’ve gotten better at dealing with my mistakes and integrating them more fully as learning opportunities.
This usually takes a lot of effort, and sometimes it’s easier to wallow in my self-beratement than it is to do the work to transform the feelings.
Yesterday, however, was different.
As you might know, I am 8 weeks away from a master’s degree in Chinese medicine.
This past year I’ve been working as an intern in clinic, an experience filled with learning opportunities, and opportunities to make mistakes.
I’ve become increasingly good at admitting what I do not know and asking for help.
And yesterday something shifted inside me.
I somehow managed to accept my ignorance and for the first time ever I was truly grateful for my mistakes.
I got a few point locations wrong, and was grateful for my teacher’s correction.
I made the mistake of asking an elderly patient to flip on the treatment table, and apologized to her while noting to myself not to do that again.
Now, it’s still true that if someone had scolded me I probably would have had the same visceral reaction I have had in the past. That’s something I may be working on for a while to come.
But that aside, yesterday the image that I hold of this process, and myself overall, transformed.
Instead of seeing myself as a completed whole that is damaged and hardened with every mistake, I saw myself as a rough piece of clay that is being chiseled and molded into sculptural perfection.
True, perfection will never be achieved.
The masterpiece will never be complete.
But I’ve got a lifetime ahead of me to change the composition.