The Upside of Getting it Wrong

Truth Byte #58

 “It’s okay to make mistakes you can learn from.”


As a recovered perfectionist, I had a hard time believing it’s okay to make mistakes for decades. I believed, deep inside myself, that mistakes were the result of poor self-control or a lack of planning or some personal weakness finally come to light. I was okay with other people making mistakes, but if I did something wrong, it deeply impacted my self-worth and ignited this caustic self-talk that would burn holes in my sense of personal worth and goodness. I was really determined to be as perfect as I could be in the areas that mattered to me.
What that meant is that I really didn’t take many risks.


Because I didn’t want to fail.


Since my fiery and fierce daughter was born four year ago, I have felt vicariously the glittery temptation of trying new things. Some of these things that she does naturally, such as reaching out and making friends with strangers, have had amazing results for me recently.  In less than two dozen months I have built a meaningful and connected community of like-minded friends and colleagues. Other risks didn’t end so well, and had me feeling like I lost track of who I am and what’s important to me.


Recently, I have had one of these experiences where something I tried professionally for the last year is coming to it’s natural conclusion, and I am re-starting the projects that are closer to my heart. For the first week after the decision to re-focus, I was a mess.  I kept hearing that voice inside telling me I shouldn’t have tried something so far away from my comfort zone, and that now I have to run even faster to catch up to where I “should be” by now in my career. But something is different this time, which is why I am telling you this story.


The Dr. Saira of five years ago would have spent the next six months dissecting all the actions leading up to the “risk” and finding 101 ways to beat myself up for all the big and little choices I made along the way.


Not this time.


This time, I am excavating the lessons.


Here are the five things I have learned from my latest professional recalibration:


  1. Only I can define me.

I was relying on the people around me to help me define who I was as a mental health professional, what my “big vision” looked like, and to teach me how to stand out in my field.  What I have learned is that while those close to me generally do have my best interests at heart, only I can say definitively who I am and what I stand for.


  1. My experience is valuable.

I have been practicing therapy for over ten years.  That is a real currency that I was undervaluing. When you have years of experience and have grown and developed along the way, you have something rich to offer. I was assuming that newer graduates in my field were more relevant than me, and that my experience was a liability because I was not as “current”. Big oops. My experience matters, and it has shaped me into the transpersonal psychotherapist that I am. Period.


  1. I must listen to my people.

There are some people in my life, very close to me, who saw where I was headed and tried to warn me. I didn’t listen. They told me softly, then they told me loudly, then they just stopped telling me. I now see that there are a small cluster of people who are my warriors, and will go to battle for me, and have no other agenda except my happiness. But if I am not listening, there is nothing they can do.


  1. I need to stop trying to fit in.

I have had this issue since I was little, and it stemmed from trying to fit in with the cool kids in fourth grade. What I have internalized about myself in the last few months is to own who I am and let the right people find me rather than chasing after the perceived cool kids in my adult world. When I relax into my own flavour, I feel better and I don’t have to try so hard to belong or be liked. It’s a huge relief.


  1. I must be my full self, even if it’s too much.

Some of us have big personalities, and I am one of those people.  And I have spent so much of my life toning it down so the people around me don’t feel threatened or squeezed out. What I know now is that dimming my light does a huge disservice to me professionally, personally, emotionally, and most important: spiritually. Not everyone will like me or feel comfortable around me. I have to really get okay with that. Because making myself smaller to make other people feel better is no longer an option.


Sometimes we take a risk and it opens the doors to a whole new life. Sometimes the risk leads to a branched off and unexpected path that we didn’t know was there before. This week, I would ask you to look into your current situation and see if you are living those five lessons. Are you defining yourself or letting other people define you? Are you valuing or undervaluing your life experiences and are you considering the unique perspective you bring to the table? Are you figuring out who your people are and really listening to them? Are you trying too hard to fit in? Are you showing up fully, no matter the mixed responses to your bigness? And what other lessons have you learned over then past few weeks as you recalibrate, whether its at work, at home, or in the private inner spaces of your heart?


No need to ridicule or berate ourselves for mistakes, but rather let’s commit to seeing miscalculations as opportunities to learn and grow.  As I walk this new, unseen path this Spring, I ask you to join me. I am re-launching my personal development workshop series as some of my other joint ventures are coming to completion. If you are already part of our tribe, let me know what you want to see more of so I can shape this next phase of Dr. Saira with you in mind.  Send me your questions and ideas at Looking forward to doing this together.