Ode to messing up (with thanks to Anne Lamott)

“You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t.
You take the action, and the insight follows:
You don’t think your way into becoming yourself.”  Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors, mostly because of her authentic and often hilarious portrayals of the self actualization process.  She doesn’t filter much, and has a wicked sense of humor.  By describing her own messy process of becoming whole, she validates that the process IS messy.  Example – here’s the opening line from a piece she wrote for Oprah:

“Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.”

That’s pretty much my process too.  And the process of the people I try to help.

People come to therapy to find themselves.  Rarely do they understand how crucial mistake-making is to the process.  They want to try things they will like, be good at, and do for the next 10 years.  They want guaranteed success.  Meanwhile, my wish for them is failure after failure, because, like Lamott says above, “You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don’t think your way into becoming yourself.”  Every “no, that wasn’t it…” is a clue toward “yes, that’s it!”  I don’t know who invented the idea that mistakes were bad and to be avoided at all costs, but s/he will keep me employed for the rest of my life.  If that idea ever went away… if people could make mistakes with a sense of wonder and curiosity and pure learning… well – I’d happily find another career…

If you’d like to read the rest of the article, you can find it at: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-To-Find-Out-Who-You-Really-Are-by-Anne-Lamott#ixzz2Q4YTY8S6

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