Mental Health

How I Learned It’s Okay To Mess Up

Life lessons: how I learned it's okay to mess up (cartoon graphic of a tree)

It’s fairly common, at least in the mental health blogging world, for people to self-criticize, especially if they they think they’ve made a mistake or failed to do something. I don’t tend to do that, and recently had a bit of an aha moment about how it came to be that I believe that it’s okay to mess up. I’m not quite sure what exactly prompted the aha, but I have been talking with Winter Dragonflies lately about the topic.

The aha is that my maternal grandma modelled this for me. She lived about an hour and a half away from the town where I grew up, and we went up to her place for the weekend about once a month throughout my childhood, so she was a major figure in my life.

Grandma has always had a great sense of humour. She considers herself to be goofy, and has never taken anything too seriously. Quirky/weird was interesting in her world, not bad. She was the anti-perfectionist; she was imperfect and she embraced that. She also embraced it in my brother and myself. She consistently demonstrated the value in being able to laugh at yourself.

She didn’t have the easiest time of things. She grew up on a farm in nowhereville, Saskatchewan, during the Great Depression. She married my grandpa, who treated her with great disdain, and then once my mom and uncle had ventured out into the adult world, she upped and left my grandpa without warning. Her next partner was an alcoholic who finally got sober around 10 years after they got together. So things weren’t easy, but but she got through with humour and always being able to see the ridiculous side of things.

While my grandma and I have always had a close relationship, I don’t think I’ve given all that much thought to how it shaped my development; I’ve tended to think more in terms of my home life in that respect. But being able to laugh at myself when I mess up is definitely something that came from her rather than from my parents.

In my non-depressed life, I had non-mentally ill friends, and there were a lot of things that just didn’t come up that I now see talked about regularly in the blogosphere. I’m pretty introspective to begin with, so it’s interesting to look back and think about influences that I hadn’t considered before. The blogging world has also shown me that a lot of childhood experiences that I had just considered to be normal were really anything but, and I’m grateful that I was able to have those experiences. It’s also made me more aware of how valuable it is to have someone(s) who can demonstrate adaptive ways of coping with the world.

Is there anything you had modelled to you in a positive way while you were a child?

COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.

33 thoughts on “How I Learned It’s Okay To Mess Up”

  1. I think it’s super easy for us bloggers to compare ourselves to other bloggers and that stems a lot of self-criticism. That being said, learning to forgive one’s mistakes is a very valuable life skill that can make the struggle through life a bit easier.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother!! Oh my goodness, she’d be so proud of it! You’d have liked Granny Smith, too. She was a wonderful grandmother. I have a little hanging framed photo of her on the closet door to my right.

    I think, and I could be wrong about this, that Carolyn Hax was a huge influence on me. I discovered her column through the local Georgia newspaper when I was living there in 2004/2005. I dove in and read her deep archives, which go back to the 1990s. Reading her advice again and again and again made it all sort of gel in my mind, and I realized that most people don’t really have it together in one way or another.

  3. There was nothing positive in my childhood LOL No wait, reading and language – got that from my father – use the language properly and if it’s printed, read it!

  4. My grandma is probably the only reason I developed empathy, compassion and the ability to love, because I certainly didn’t get it from anyone else in my family. I’ll always appreciate that about her. It was just so sad that I lost her when I was 7.

  5. Like you, my maternal grandmother had a great influence on me. She welcomed everybody into her home. I stop and look back and I cannot remember her ever having said anything racist.
    When people come to visit me my first thought is, “would you like a coffee, or a cup of tea”.
    My grandmother also gave me a love for cooking and baking. Also, gave me a foundation of a Christian life.

    1. Your Grandma sounds like an amazing woman.

      I needed to read this today, spent the day being very self-critical over a few things that have happened. This made me realise what I was doing, I think I do it without realising at times, its very much automatic. So, thank you.

      Time to let it go I think and accept that its ok to be different and make mistakes.

  6. Thank you for sharing about your grandmother. In answer to your question, yes, it was my adoptive great grandmother with whom I spend some summers when I was very young, and who always saved me the MiniPages from the Washington Post (I went to elementary school until 5th grade up in New Jersey) for summers with her. That saved the rest of my life.

  7. I don’t know about modelling, but my maternal grandparents both used to say “It’ll all be the same in a hundred years,” meaning: don’t worry. I had been thinking about that more often last year, and then COVID hit and seemed to disprove it, but maybe even COVID won’t matter in a hundred years. The Spanish Flu Pandemic was a hundred years ago, and that had largely passed out of collective memory until it suddenly became a precedent for COVID.

  8. My grandparents (my grandmother especially) demonstrated what it was like to love, and that has been so very important for me. Once you see that, you know, no matter what, that it’ll be alright! Too bad I forget that, even when it’s ingrained in me.

  9. I think my parent modeled how to be good parents. I think they regret not instilling a bigger desire to make ends meet. My mom said today “money has never mattered to you” and it wasn’t in a bad way, just matter of fact. I think she wishes she instilled being a little more grounded but I see it as modeling the belief I can do anything.

  10. My mom modeled to always, always be there for people. No matter what.

    I always thought I had to be perfect, so I make sure my kids know that everyone makes mistakes. When I mess up, I apologize. I explain what I did wrong and that I’m sorry, I’m only human, and I’ll try to do better. I want them to see that no one is perfect and it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you own up to them and learn from them and try to do better.

  11. You are indeed blessed to have your grandma as an influential role model in your life. Sometimes, it is good to look back and take in good things that can help us in walking into the future.

    I really love you saying that. Adaptive thinking. I bet that I have also learned this from some people. Definitely those people who have the charisma to laugh at themselves. Making mistakes doesn’t need to look ugly. It can be just like a baby learning how to walk. Haha… We are all lifelong learners.

    I always tell myself this. Keep a kind, good heart in whatever we are doing. Embrace our imperfection and keep learning how to better contribute goodness in this world.

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