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At a presentation I did last week a woman shared that she had started a small cake business. It started because she loved to bake cakes and had taken a few of her cakes into work. Gradually (and as she said unexpectedly) people started ordering cakes. She never dreamed of going into business as a baker–but now her she was, having a thriving side business and loving it. So far she had received rave reviews of her cakes but with each new cake she was waiting for the bad review to come in. Almost to the point of paralyzing her. As I said to her, I almost wish she could have a bad review just so she could face it and get over it, the anticipation of the bad review was almost worse than the actual bad review.
Because bottom line, someone somewhere was not going to like her cakes. It might have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of her ingredients or her work, it is just a fact we all have different tastes. She had decided to go back to pastry school to improve her technique–and we discussed that even the master chef’s of the world have their cakes criticized–all the education and preparedness in the world won’t stop the criticism from happening. So while learning new techniques was helpful—learning them for the sake of stopping criticism–probably not going to happen. It was the paralyzing nature of this fear that both struck me and that I understood.
I realized later she was looking for the ‘right answer’. As long as she made the cake’s ‘right’ every time she would avoid criticism. This is a running joke in my house, my nearest and dearest is constantly giving me grief as I futilely look for the ‘right’ way to an event or if we ordered the ‘right’ food at a restaurant, if I said the ‘right’ thing at a party. But in all honestly there is no right, mistakes happen, people criticize, we fail.
Frequently when we are headed towards our goals, setbacks happen, someone criticizes your creation, you don’t get a job you interviewed for, you don’t get your grad school application in on time, you aren’t adequately prepared for a presentation that might have lead to a promotion. Do you just bag the rest of your career?? Do you just give up? Bottom line in life, mistakes happen, we fail, we don’t do it ‘right’. That is a given, a time honored truth: We are imperfect, flawed human beings.
Yesterday I talked about the concept of spinning our wheels. Sometimes when we stop spinning our wheels and take that first step we hit a road block, we make a mistake, we get turned down. It is in those times that we really need to have a little self compassion–pick ourselves up, dust ourselves up and keep our eyes on the big picture. Maybe you didn’t get into the grad school of your choice, but fortunately you applied to 4 other schools so you still have a chance. Maybe you did mess up the presentation, and you learned how to do it better next time. You learned you need some help with your presentation skills. Maybe you didn’t get the new job so you keep trying, keep applying, keep building your skills and strengthening your network. Maybe someone does criticize something you made, and you survive knowing you tried your best and created your best product.
It is when we stop that we get into trouble. It is when we get comfortable in the wheel spinning, or the inertia of not making a move until we are ‘right’ that life goes from happier to painful. It would be a shame if the Cake Lady stopped baking cakes simply to avoid criticism, because she was sharing her gift and she enjoyed doing it. It is when we hit these snags, these roadblocks that we need to keep going. Need to notice our fears, honor our mistakes, let go of our perfectionism and keep moving.
Always keep moving.