Learn to Laugh and Let it Go

by Alli Polin on November 5, 2013

We all make mistakes. Learn from them and move forward.

Stress can get the best of us even when we think that we’ve got it all under control.  In fact, that’s probably when our stress is at the highest, when we want to give the illusion of perfection and control in all that we do. For a long time, there was nothing that stressed me out more than other people thinking I don’t have my sh*t together. From the littlest thing to the biggest blunders, internally, I was treating them all the same.  A year ago, I promised myself I’d learn to let it go and every day I’m getting a little better at that promise I’ve made to myself, even if I still have a long way to go.

There is really no need to hide our mistakes as if they will transform into a big “A” pinned to our shirts!  Instead we need to own, accept and learn from them.

Maybe you won’t feel so bad about your own mess-ups if you have some insight into a few of mine.  Here are three blunders of differing magnitudes that I’m ready to share and own because none of them matter as much as holy heck, in the moment, I thought that it did. Also, maybe it will inspire you to make a similar promise to yourself.

Did She Really #1

I can remember writing my very first blog post and putting together the message to my list to tell them about the blog.  I was nervous and excited.  How would it be received?  Does it add value?  Is it fluff?  A friend of mine on my list quickly replied to me and what did I find?  No “congratulations!”  No “excited to see you blogging!”  I got: “You have a typo.” Yikes.  I suck.  Truly.  Awful.

OK.  Freeze frame.  Logically, I know I don’t suck just because I had a typo but I also know that’s exactly how it felt in the moment.  I wanted to put forth the perfect post and the perfect message and instead I messed up.

LET IT GO:  It’s a typo, not an acceptance speech at the Academy Awards being simulcast around the world.
LESSON: Nobody’s perfect even if it seems that way from the outside.  Moreover, it’s important that we embrace our less than perfect selves to show others that they can do the same – and live to tell the story.
ACTION:  Laugh.  Breathe.  Move on. 

Did She Really #2

It was my wedding day and my makeup was perfect, hair sprayed to survive a wind tunnel, dress was on and I was ready to go!  The music started, the doors opened and as I began to walk down the aisle with my father, I began laughing – uncontrollably.  People thought I was sobbing crying and I was crying from the extreme laughter.

LET IT GO:  It was my wedding.  Not like I was laughing at another bride walking down the aisle.
LESSON: Emotions show up in funny ways.  Don’t run from emotions, learn to be present with them.
ACTION: Look back and smile instead of wishing it was different.  The moment is over, it’s not changing, embrace it.

Did She Really #3

Every summer my family and I would drive from Philadelphia to Cape Cod Massachusetts for our annual family vacation.  We were at one of our favorite family restaurants and I asked the waiter for a glass of water.  He had me repeat myself literally three times.  Two minutes later he showed up with some butter for me.  Once I stopped being confused, I realized my Philadelphia accent must have been kicked into high gear for him to confuse water with butter.  I thanked him, repeated my request sans accent, and my thirst was quenched shortly.

LET IT GO: My accent was and is a part of who I am.  I don’t speak wrong while he is right – we’re just different.
LESSON: A moment of embarrassment should not turn into a derailment.
ACTION:   If it mattered enough to ask in the first place, it matters enough to keep going for what you want.  Ask again.  Try again.

What About You?

Did you ever mess up or feel like you did?  Be honest.  Of course you have!  The real question is: Have you been beating yourself up about it silently and wishing that you could turn back the clock to make it perfect?  Stop it.  Let it go.  It doesn’t mean you don’t care.  It does mean that you accept yourself for being human.  Who wants to be perfect anyway? Not me.  Adventure is so much more fun when you’re willing to get a little messy.

Break the Frame Action:

Raise your right hand and say “I’m going to do better with letting go and enjoying the moment.”  You may mess up, you may beat yourself up, but hopefully, you’ll also remember this oath to let go and grow.

What’s your biggest mess up?  Do you replay it on a constant loop in your mind or can you share your insight to help others let go?

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Lalita Raman November 5, 2013 at 6:11 am

Good post Alli. Being judged and evaluated by the way people behave, even among the so called leadership blog community sometimes outs the pressure and there are many times we may beat ourselves forgot. All it may be somebody’s attitude not in controls & yes letting go helps. Letting go, I have learnt, helps me learn.

Talking of mess up, I don’t use that word much these days. Because that signifies a huge negative connotation for me and makes it difficult to let go. I find reframing of I messed it up to my bad, I apologize or my mistake and my deep apologies easier to get into a positive frame of mind, let go and move forward.

You have brought Some great insights in your post Alli.

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Alli Polin November 5, 2013 at 6:56 am

You raise such excellent points, Lalita! I appreciate that you don’t talk of mess ups – it is a negative experience to think of our less-than-perfect moments as messes. Reframing goes a looonnnnggg way to embracing the learning and moving forward.

Also strikes me that you apologize for your mistakes. Talk about a leadership quality that sets people apart! It’s one thing to learn from our mistakes and another to apologize as well.

I appreciate who you are, what you do and the message that you bring to the world, Lalita!

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Michael Feeley November 5, 2013 at 6:49 am

This is good Alli! I smiled through the whole post especially #2…’emotions show up in funny ways’…and places too. Thanks for presenting the subject of mistakes and how to live with them. Really important because we do such harm to ourselves over things we do or did and see as mistakes.

When I trained to be a Coach I learned this principle that totally released me from how I saw my own mistakes. ‘There are no mistakes.’ It was revolutionary for me. Right away, what I saw as a mistake was a learning experience, an opportunity to grow and change and a true gift to me more myself. Confident and proud.

Thanks for such pleasure and knowledge with your life lessons..

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Alli Polin November 5, 2013 at 7:48 am

Michael –

My husband just read my post and vividly remembered that moment too. He’s glad I wasn’t crying with sadness just thinking about my future ;).

It’s incredible how much we beat ourselves up over even the tiniest of things. What a way of living and leading! – there are no mistakes. Very powerful way of thinking and truly frees us to take risks, see what happens, learn and course correct along the way. If we’re worried about mistakes, fear keeps us playing small.

Sincerely appreciate you and your fantastic insights. Honored that you’ve shared them here.

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Jon Mertz November 5, 2013 at 7:17 am

Laughter, especially at ourselves, keeps us centered and human after all. Great points, Alli. We need to lighten up and just keep doing our best, all with a smile on our face and a positive beat inside. Thanks! Jon

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Alli Polin November 5, 2013 at 7:41 am

If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’re in big trouble. I think you hit it on the head, Jon – all we can do is to keep doing our best. Every mis-step is an opportunity learn positively impact our future choices.

Thanks, Jon! I think that you’re someone that does just that. Appreciate you!

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Brian Smith November 5, 2013 at 7:22 am

Like most, I use to beat myself up big time but, I’ve learned to shrug it off and move on. Tough for a “reformed control freak”. If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t trying hard enough – you aren’t growing – you are just standing still. I look at the mistakes I make as learning opportunities. I look for the lessons I was suppose to learn – learn them – and then carry on. (Hopefully I’ve learned enough not to make the same mistake twice) Your post Alli is a great reminder to all of us to lighten up.

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Alli Polin November 5, 2013 at 7:45 am

Brian, What a great philosophy! If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t trying hard enough. Pushing into new territory leads to mess-ups and learning opportunities – why not laugh along the way? Appreciate learning from your journey as a reformed control freak too!!

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Susan Bowen November 5, 2013 at 8:30 am

A great post, Alli. Thank you for the reminder – for I do find myself agonizing over things that only I agonize over. Your blog example is close to my heart. I remember my first post and the thoughts that ran through my head. I kept wondering if I was saying the right thing or if someone would come back and say “No! You’re wrong.” I had multiple moments of self talk reminding myself that it was MY blog and MY thoughts … so no one could tell me they were wrong. One could disagree, but my thoughts are still my thoughts. Every once in a while my inner voice does start to chatter. But I will raise my right hand and strive to do better. Love to laugh and let it go.

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Alli Polin November 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm

That inner saboteur can be so LOUD! Love that I’m not the only one that has self-doubt creep into my space. You have a great strategy to head off the negative thinking – ownership. Your blog. Your thoughts. Your perspective matter and so does mine! That’s what makes the world so much richer. It’s the fear of judgement that can hold us back or push us forward with even more oomph.

Huge thanks for sharing your insights and experience, Susan!

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Tom Rhodes November 5, 2013 at 8:39 am

Nice post Alli. Making mistakes is part or life. The challenge is letting them go. I certainly have a long list and need to do a better letting go job. The first step is to own it. I have that part. Its the letting go I hope your post will help me master. Thanks as always for sharing.

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Alli Polin November 5, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Tom – Very much appreciate your comment! First step is to own it – yes. That way, we can take responsibility for letting it go too.

So happy to have connected with you! A sincere thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

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richmiraclefiles November 5, 2013 at 8:40 am

Hi Alli
I absolutely agree with you there about letting go after a gaffe.
Stop beating yourself up.
In fact we are perfect as we are ,because of our imperfections more than anything else.
That is also the spirit of “Wabi Sabi”,which believes in accepting the imperfect,the less than beautiful,the incomplete.Because in that very acceptance is the scope for massive growth.That is the only dimension which brings balance in the entire scheme of Nature.
Thanks
Mona

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Alli Polin November 5, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Mona,

Our imperfections make us beautiful, set us apart and are reason for celebration, not condemnation. Love the spirit of Wabi Sabi. Thank you for reminding me to take a wider view.

Big thanks for leaving your mark and wisdom here!

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Stephen Lahey November 5, 2013 at 9:08 am

Great reminder, Alli. Here’s a little wedding related story for you. One hot summer day my wife and I drove to a wedding that was being held at a posh resort a few hours away. Because it was over 90 degrees that morning we each wore shorts and t-shirts and packed along our formal wear. When we arrived I noticed that I had forgotten something — my dress shoes. Needless to say I made quite a fashion statement wearing my suit with white sneakers. LOL!

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Alli Polin November 5, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Hysterical story! I’m sure at the time you were super self conscious about it (or maybe I’m projecting how I would have felt onto you). Now it’s a fantastic story to share. Sometimes we have no choice but to take a deep breath and go with what we’ve got!

Thanks, Steve!

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Joy Guthrie November 5, 2013 at 11:23 am

Needless to say, Alli, I have made so many mistakes. You made me think of a funny story associated with my 1st wedding (I’ve had 2). This one is not directly my mistake (only indirectly – but it’s a funny story). We just finished the bridal tea (not sure if it’s done everywhere – it’s a dressy event – back in those days it was formal wear only). Anyway, the guests were leaving and my mom and my bridesmaids were working with me to gather a few things from around the room. As we were all relaxing we realized two things: 1) My mom’s dress was on backwards; and 2) one of the bridesmaid’s dress was inside out. I was so focused on ME that I wasn’t paying attention until the end. I was upset with myself that I hadn’t noticed these problems to help them out. Initially, they were embarrassed. Then, we all laughed so much and still laugh about it today.

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Alli Polin November 5, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Joy – You totally have me laughing! Shows that while a mistake may feel huge when we finally catch it (like an inside out or backwards dress) it’s really not as bad as we think. So funny that nobody noticed until the end – fact is, probably most people didn’t notice at all. I totally understand how you felt guilty for not noticing too. So much in there that absolutely goes hand in hand with this post. Learn, Laugh, Let Go! 🙂

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LaRae Quy November 5, 2013 at 11:24 am

Your post made me smile…you have a great sense of humor – I can just see your hair sprayed to within an inch of its life on your wedding day!

I think humor is the BEST way to remember, savor, and move on from those embarrassing moments in life that hit us all. Most of mine seem to have revolved around relationships 🙁 I say “savor” because I want to learn from those mistakes, not make them again! Wisdom is one benefit of growing older…and our cumulative experiences give us our wisdom.

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Alli Polin November 6, 2013 at 12:00 am

LaRae – Right on! If we make the same mistake again and again…. it ceases to be funny and clearly there is a gap that is NOT being filled with learning. Love the idea of savoring the mistakes we make. Thank you for sharing that fantastic metaphor.

Appreciate you!

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Terri Klass November 5, 2013 at 11:51 am

What a fun post Alli, and I too am still chuckling from your words!

We all have had these embarrassing experiences you describe. I do think that if we can just laugh about it, we are able to see how perfection is nonsense.

I have learned so much from my daughters how to “keep a grip” and not take life so seriously. Kids do that for us.

Thanks for starting my day with a smile! 🙂

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Alli Polin November 6, 2013 at 12:03 am

My whole life I’ve blushed easily. If I thought people were staring at me, judging my mess-ups, I was instantly red. In fact, people could get me to blush on demand. As I got older, and learned to appreciate laughter and learning, that physiological response has died down (thank goodness!)

You’re right – kids absolutely help us put things in a whole new perspective!

Thanks, Terri!

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Susan Thorn November 6, 2013 at 7:53 am

We are best blessed by our blunders! I too sobbed like a baby through out my vows out of sheer joy. The minister asked 1/2 way through “Do I need to stop?”, to which the guests laughed. It’s funny now… if I have learned anything it is these two; first how to laugh, and second? I am my own best entertainment. You have to laugh at yourself! Thank you for sharing.

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Alli Polin November 7, 2013 at 6:05 am

Susan – I can totally understand! The moment has so much emotion in it and (hopefully) sadness is far from our hearts.

I’m totally smiling as I read your comment “I am my own best entertainment” I’m so with you! If we can’t laugh at ourselves, life will not be much fun in the long run.

Thanks so much for sharing your story and awesome attitude here!

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Lolly Daskal November 6, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I love reading things that make me SMILE and smile I did when I read your post!

GREAT JOB…..

I cant believe…..
I shouldnt have done that….
I didnt mean to …
are words we all say, and we are all humans, humans who make mistakes, if we acknowledge we are human, we are defining ourselves as people who always have something to learn. what we are really saying is that we have to keep going if our plans don’t work, or if we messed up.

I am human and I hope to give myself some space to know I have limitations and I will try to accept myself for who I am.

Lolly

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Alli Polin November 7, 2013 at 7:17 am

Lolly,

Big, huge, enormous YES! We are ALL human and not one human on the planet is living the idealized version of perfection. Yet, we are all perfect with our imperfections instead of trying to erase them. If you or I or anyone gave up at the first mis-step, none of us would move anywhere at all.

The greatest gift we can give ourselves is self-acceptance. I appreciate you tremendously, Lolly!

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Karen Jolly November 7, 2013 at 1:06 am

How boring life would be if we couldn’t laugh at ourselves! I loved your examples Alli – I could relate to each one. I’ve been so hard on myself at various times, when absolutely no one could care less but me. How freeing it is to just laugh and move on. Texting with Siri has been so good for me in this department! I’ve had the most embarrassing spelling errors at times. Great lesson in laughing and letting go. 🙂

Thank you Alli.

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Alli Polin November 7, 2013 at 7:22 am

I’m with you, Karen! It IS freeing to realize that the only one that’s really hung up on my gaffe is ME!

Texting with Siri can be hysterical! So can tweet chats when my brain is going faster than my fingers. Kind of reminds me of when someone sends an email that they wish that they did not send and tries to recall it.

Love the lightness that you bring to my heart every time you comment here or when I read a posts on your Minute Mindset blog. Thank you!!

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