“You haven’t parked very straight!”
The words were not spoken but her eyes said it all. Accusing. Judging.
The problem with having a wonky brain is that I think I have parked perfectly between those white lines, but the reality is often proved otherwise when I get out of the car.
Sometimes I’ll try to rectify the situation, especially if I can’t get out of the car without contorting myself over the handbrake and gearstick to escape through the passenger door, or realise that the driver in the car next to me hasn’t got a hope of getting into their vehicle without going on a starvation diet first for three months.
Forwards, backwards, over to the left a bit. And then the right.
Invariably it ends up not much better.
Should have just left it askew for others to pass comment on as they walk past.
It’s the same with hanging pictures. My husband knows not to ask me if a picture is hanging straight because we will never agree, and then he brings out the spirit level to show who is right.
It’s quite remarkable our marriage has stood the test of time. But you can’t argue with a spirit level, can you?
Parking and pictures aside, what do you have trouble with doing well, where others criticise your efforts rather than choosing to ask if they can help you do better?
Because we’re not good at everything.
(Sorry if you thought you were. Delusion can be a great source of comfort, but isn’t always helpful)
Which is why those who have expertise in those things we find challenging are a godsend.
Like those people in the shopping mall gift wrapping your items at Christmas.
My family know when I got help with this because they know gift wrapping (and flower arranging) is a skill that totally eludes me.
Where is Mr Bean when you need him to gift wrap that special item or your personal parking valet when you’ve nipped down to the shops?
I’ve had time.
A lifetime in fact, to understand that there are those things that will always irritatingly never be something I will excel in, even if I spend 10,000 hours or more trying to get better at them.
I’ve had to accept.
I will never be selected for the Olympics. The public interest in competing for the worst parking is small.
I shall never hold my own art exhibition. My creative skills are shall we say “naïve” at best, and I would have to spend the whole time correcting how the artwork was hung.
It’s my salve and balm. Applied liberally it works to soothe the perfectionistic brow where you desperately want everything to be right. Not just good, but the best.
By the way, those wrinkles we develop with maturity, are not just an outward sign of aging. It’s an indication of time spent smiling broadly, laughing loudly, and accepting what is.
Acceptance of self and acceptance of others.
Along with kindness, compassion, and tolerance of difference.
This is what makes the difference, so your weaknesses no longer matter.
Because you’re doing your best to navigate and thrive in this messy, challenging world we operate in.
Accepting help can be a challenge, especially for those who prefer “the independent, I can do this perfectly well on my own” approach.
Especially too when you don’t wish to be seen as lacking in some way. You’re keen to make a positive mark, to be seen as an enterprising, reliable person who pulls their weight and works hard.
Acceptance here also includes acceptance of a compliment or commendation for work well done. Why does it sometimes feel so hard to accept that recognition?
Is it because we don’t believe in ourselves sufficiently to know when we have done well?
Or we don’t wish to bring attention to ourselves?
This is where a simple thank you and a smile is a great way to practice getting better at acceptance. By starting with the small things, it becomes easier over time to accept the bigger ticket items.
Acceptance tempers the disappointment or frustration of a situation.
Being graceful in acceptance enables emotions to stay under control. You can respond rather than react.
That’s not to say there won’t be those times when your response is anything but graceful.
When you snarl or shout.
Acceptance is being human and trying to get things right, most of the time.
Acceptance can hurt.
After all, who sets out to come second in a race you’ve spent months preparing to win?
In the end, the person who comes first, who wins the tender, who gets the promotion you were hanging out for won the prize that day.
That pain can be useful for preparing for the next time.
Because trying once and giving up isn’t trying at all.
If you really want something, have set your heart of achieving your goal of say running a marathon, you will have to accept that obstacles and failures will accompany you along the way.
Have you ever met someone seen as enormously successful, who has achieved all their life goals without ever having to face failure and adversity at some point along the way?
Acceptance can be tough.
Losing a loved one. Being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Being cut from a team because you missed training when you were sick with Covid.
Life isn’t always fair. Here, acceptance serves to reduce the sting and helps you tap into your resilience and coping skills to manage the situation more effectively.
Acceptance leads to forgiveness.
“Forgive me for I have trespassed.”
Reciting those lines as a kid in school assembly meant little at the time.
But how often do you need to forgive yourself, for saying the wrong thing, for hurting someone’s feelings, for parking badly in the car park?
We are our biggest self-critic.
That pesky little voice roars into your ear.
“You stupid woman. Can’t you ever park your car straight?”
Forgive me. For I am fallible, prone to stuffing up and a lot of bad car parking misdemeanours.
Because we are all imperfect in some way.
Forgiving ourselves is the first step to greater self-awareness and being brave enough to apologise to yourself, to those you have hurt or offended and to seek to rectify our mistakes.
Forgiving others takes practice too.
How quickly do you leap to judgement when a friend or colleague says. “I’m sorry I think I made a mistake here.”
That surge of anger and internal dialogue “How can you have been so stupid?” “Haven’t I told you innumerable times to check your figures before pressing send?” can override the need for curiosity, understanding and acceptance.
By staying curious, you temper that judgment, to seek greater understanding and to empower the person who has owned the mistake and fessed up to it, to work towards finding a solution.
As a leader, how do you provide yourself and your employees the safe headspace to examine mistakes, to reward smart failure and invite input and contribution to get things right next time?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
And next time you wonder who on earth parked so badly in the car park, it was probably me.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker, trainer and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is available for purchase.
If psychological safety, burnout prevention and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.