I just slipped over. About an hour ago I was leaving a restaurant and, as I neared the door, I slipped...fully down onto my butt, on the ground, with one arm out behind me to keep from tipping back. And a funny thing happened...I wasn't embarrassed at all.
Two guys leaned in with an outstretched hand to help me up - I chose the waiter, it seemed more appropriate. My nanosecond logic was..."it's more his job to help-up a customer from the floor". He looked enquiringly at me then we both looked at the floor; nope, nothing there - no water, no stray pickle, nothing that could justify my sudden sitting-down on the floor of the restaurant. Just before I slipped I had turned to say goodbye to the cashier so, I said, "I think I turned the corner too sharply",...he smiled. I thanked the other potential knight-in-shining-armor at the doorway and he asked if I was okay - "I'm fine, thank-you".
I kept waiting for the burn on the cheeks, the "how embarrassing" inner voice, the runaway fear of what 'they' must think of me, the urge to justify myself to whoever might have seen it. But, nothing came. I didn't blush, I was actually quite calm. I didn't label it as "awful", or "embarrassing", or "stupid"...there was just no judgment passing through my mind about me, my competency, or what others might think. In fact, because I behaved so calmly, I imagined that the few people who witnessed it might think I handled it rather well, before they forgot all about the incident when their own concerns re-occupied their attention.
It certainly helped that I was wearing pants so my undies weren't on display (reasons to wear pants ladies), it helped that I only plonked onto my butt and not all the way back, it helped that I was on my way out of the place anyway. But, I could easily have made a far bigger deal of it, and most certainly would have a few years ago.
What has changed is knowing...
- I don't need to be perfect to be perfectly acceptable
- I'm a competent person and even small errors don't change that fundamental truth
- Most people look sympathetically at the mishaps of others
- People who do look unsympathetically at the mishaps of others have a purile perspective not worth considering anyway
- Most people forget you exist 5 minutes after you leave the situation
- I label myself and events with my mind. With practice, I can slow down that process and interrupt it with an interpretation that I chose and empowers me.
Be Nice to Yourself
That last one is the liberation. It's taken a long time of being really observant of my thoughts, of actively reinterpreting events I once thought bad and see them as useful. I consciously coach myself with words that focus me on my accomplishments (big and small), how I am improving all the time, and how I can do better next time if I make a mistake.
That inner voice coaching is like a gym workout that prepares me for when I need to be strong; when I'm at home I notice my successes, my "good jobs", and my little triumphs (getting to three push-ups!). I strengthen the muscle of my self-supporting inner voice by labeling myself and my accomplishments in encouraging and complimentary ways. And today, when I needed to flex that muscle, it paid off by giving me resilience to a hit of social embarrassment. I feel proud of myself for handling the situation with a calmness that surprised even me. I will continue to develop my inner coach so my thoughts will be there to support me (rather than undermine me) when I need them. Because, as Shakespeare said...
There's nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.