Yesterday was rough. It started with an anxious conversation in my own head about whether the Surgeon General was lying to us about the effectiveness of face masks.
Did the shortage of medical grade face masks justify lying about their effectiveness?
That was enough stress before 8 AM to get me amped up for the day.
I decided to wear a face mask to bring groceries to my elderly mother. A real-deal, medical grade, anti-viral, properly worn face mask.
If you know me, then you’re not surprised to hear I have a couple of these stowed away in my linen closet for air travel during cold and flu season.
So, there I am, at the grocery store checkout. Looking stupid. Face mask and all. A fellow shopper, also wearing a face mask, commented,
“People are giving us strange looks.”
I responded with, “I really don’t care.”
“I guess I don’t either!” he said.
I wanted to bag my mom’s groceries myself. I figured the fewer hands on her groceries the better.
I told the bagger not to bag my groceries.
He didn’t listen.
Even after I repeated myself and raised my voice, he didn’t listen.
I stretched my arms out over the bagging area–grabbing my groceries in an effort to keep them away from him.
He still didn’t listen.
I shouted at him,
“Stop! Stop bagging my groceries!”
At this point, the cashier intervened.
He gently put both of his hands on the bagger’s arms, looked him in the eyes, and told him to stop. The cashier then looked at me and said,
“He’s deaf. And, you’re rude.”
My jaw dropped behind my mask. I felt ashamed and angry at the same time. I felt publicly humiliated by the cashier and I wanted to justify my behavior.
After all, I didn’t know he was deaf!
As I walked through the parking lot to my car, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I just let this coronavirus shit show get to me. Is this how I’m gonna be? On edge and freaking out?”
Well, yes. Sometimes.
I’m not exempt from the effects of fear and anxiety. This is how I act when I’m afraid. I go on the defensive.
I didn’t know.
I was afraid.
I was wrong.
I want to remember that I can be wrong.
I’ve learned that people are generous with their forgiveness when I show even just an ounce of humility.
When I admit to my faults, the grace of other people comes through. They forgive me. Then, I can eventually forgive myself.
I learned humility for the millionth time in my life in that checkout line. Humility comes in handy in my role as agency owner and CEO, too.
It’s not easy to own up to mistakes or even carefully listen to a different opinion.
At work, it’s easier to dig in my heels.
I get defensive because:
- The employee I hired six months ago doesn’t know my business the way I know my business.
- They haven’t invested the way I’ve invested.
- It’s my neck on the line.
- I’m the one currently applying for a disaster relief loan.
These aren’t even things I consciously think. They’re subtle attitudes that creep in.
When I’ve had a tough day or I’m tired, (or I’m terrified because of an international catastrophe), these attitudes can sneak in under my radar. I become less open to the possibility that my team might be right and I might be wrong.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes with my team and with my clients, too.
The sooner I realize my mistake, the sooner I can own up to it, apologize for it, and fix it.
But, if I don’t know I’m wrong, I can’t change my course.
How do I know when I’m wrong?
I need people to tell me.
But for them to feel comfortable telling me I’m wrong, I need to make it safe for them. It’s my responsibility to welcome feedback and criticism.
It helps with the fear to remember all my past experiences with making mistakes. Being wrong isn’t the end of the world.
I launched an online training course earlier this week. I couldn’t have done it that quickly or that effectively without the help and ideas of other people on my team.
When I’ve opened myself up to criticism and to different opinions, I’ve been able to make confident decisions about practical matters. Confident decision-making is especially valuable to me in a climate of anxiety and indecision.