Tonight I took a walk through my home village (really it is a village, it’s so tiny, it has only one street with no name). It was a beautiful spring evening and I was drawn out of the house. I walked past one of my neighbours down the road. A little boy, aged about 8 or 9, played on a big trampoline with his football. He called “hello” as I came closer. I said hello back. He then asked me if I would catch his ball. I felt an instant panic arise. Me catch a ball? Images of high school sports classes arised where I always got chosen last for my inability to catch or through a ball. I said to the boy “rather not”. He was like “why??”. “Because I am not so good at this.” He kindly offered to not throw but roll the ball towards me. And so he did. I took the ball and threw or rather attempted to throw it back to him. And miserably failed. I didn’t go far enough for him to catch it. I tried again and failed again. I could sense the stress and mostly the shame rise. Ever so sweet, the boy then offered “I can come closer”. And finally he caught the ball. I said all self conscious “See, I am not good at this.” And as I started to walk on, he said “when you don’t know how to do something, you have to learn it.”
Very wise little man.
As I continued my walk I thought about the boy’s words and also my reaction to my not being an “NBA kind of through and catch the ball person”. The first thing I did was put myself down. Instead of engaging in this little game with the boy who was playing all alone and was looking for some company, I was so engrossed with my (imagined?) inability to catch and throw the ball. I felt discouraged and incapable.
It’s a good example of how we act to challenges in everyday life. We want to be in charge and in control, we want to be able to do everything right from the beginning.
We don’t want to fail.
But is “fail” even the right word? If you have never or almost never done something and are trying but not succeeding straight away, isn’t it a learning process rather than a failure? Isn’t learning about trying over and over again? When did it stop being okay to try something more than once before getting it?
Why do we feel ashamed when something isn’t perfect? When did it become hard to learn something new instead of it being a fun and enjoyable experience?
So next time I am doing something new or something I do not know how to do well yet, I will try t0:
– laugh off my “failed” attempts and not give them a second thought
– give it another go and then another and another
– enjoy myself, the process and the present moment
– have a positive and empowered attitude towards myself and my abilities
Oh and next time I see my little friend I will ask his name and take more time to play with him (rather then trying to get out of the situation as quickly as possible).
Credits: Illustrations by Linda Dieschbourg.