I am by nature a worrier. I suspect I’m more inclined to take responsibility for things than is good for me, and too slow to ask people to up their game when it might be better to do that. There are always new things to learn. There’s so much around interaction between people that is informed by each person’s individual history, expectation, assumption and so much that we can improve with simple approaches to taking care of each other. So, this is a post about mutual care and support.
I had a remarkable lesson around this recently. I was exploring something where I felt out of my depth, and one of the people I was exploring with said ‘You can’t get this wrong.’ It was a liberating and empowering moment. I’m perpetually anxious about getting things wrong, and being offered space where that explicitly could not be an issue was really powerful for me.
I’ve held this kind of space for other people in singing workshops. There’s a chanting technique I like to open with where there is truly no way of messing up. I know how reassuring that is to hear – you can’t get it wrong, and how that kind of safety creates space to explore and experiment. It’s impossible to learn without feeling you have at least some space to safely make mistakes, and no one should be pushed straight into unfamiliar things where they have to get right first time things they have no experience of.
While hearing that you are in a space where it is safe to make mistakes is good, the idea of not being able to get things wrong brings up something deeper. It’s a validation that whatever comes from you is good and welcome. Even if that only applies to a specific situation, that reassurance can still be really effective. Humans can be judgy creatures and many of us are wired to fear humiliation or anything that might compromise us socially. Most of us need social validation and affirmation that we are good enough.
‘You can’t get this wrong’ turns out to be the most powerful affirmation I have ever heard. Unlike far too many of the affirmations I’ve run into, it doesn’t push my inadequacy buttons or make me feel like I’m being lied to. It is of course vital to only use it when it’s honestly true, because telling someone they can’t get it wrong and then deciding that they have got it wrong would be a devastating judgement.
I will be looking for opportunities to use this idea. Sometimes it might need a little framing. So long as you do X – where X is easy and doable – you can’t get this wrong. If you’re making an altar, so long as it’s physically safe, there’s no way of getting it wrong. You can’t get prayer wrong. You can’t get communing with nature wrong because all you have to do is try and there you are, doing it.
All too often it can seem like the struggle inherent in something proves its worth, your worth, your seriousness and devotion. I’m going to be giving a lot more attention to looking for things it isn’t possible to get wrong, and hopefully I’ll be back to talk about this in more depth around specified opportunities to not mess up.