Everybody has a cringeworthy past

June 29, 2014 by Joshua
in Awareness

I cringed the other day talking to a friend about some past behavior I would never do today. I forget what, partly because I wish it hadn’t happened, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Maybe it was something like using guilt in a relationship to try to keep it going. Part of me wants to forget that behavior or blame others for leading me to it. If I thought long enough I could come up with dozens of things I did that would make me cringe today.

My friend admitted to some similar behavior. We got to talking and realize we both had done lots of regrettable things.

We can all think of times we’ve seen other do something that would make us cringe. I always thought most people, probably the majority, somehow understood life better than I did and only a few of us made the major gaffes that I did.

That view is silly when I think about it. Everybody has made major gaffes the feel embarrassed or ashamed of. Not just some or many people. Everybody. Most people probably know this and, if you had asked me before I would have said I knew that. I wouldn’t have realized I knew it only in an intellectual sense.

It’s another thing to internalize it and feel the catharsis of realizing that everyone learned the same way. Probably the people who seem the most smooth made the most embarrassing gaffes. I find this realization liberating. It’s a mental model related to the karate master one in my post, “A model to allow yourself to fail, which gives you freedom to succeed.”

I’ve come to conclude that improvement doesn’t come from avoiding gaffes. Improvement comes from how you recover from them.

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