Much of what you read on Facebook is not about you, even if it is on your timeline. Others reveal themselves on your timeline, often when they write about you.
Several weeks ago, I dyed three pairs of ivory pants to a darker color. The first attempt was foiled by a washing machine that rinsed half the dye away before it filled and washed. I left the pants in, knowing they would not be black. They weren’t. They were an awful shade of pinky-lavender. Sort of like pediatric nurses’ scrubs that have been washed a thousand times.
Clothes dye in pure black does not exist, dye is usually dark red or dark green, and with half the dye washed down the drain, voilá (OK, the accent should be going the other way, but my computer doesn’t want it to), the pants were pink.
Finding the whole thing Fail-worthy, I posted it with a “Nailed It!” comment. And I said I didn’t need advice, I knew what went wrong, it was just funny. Some of the comments were supportive and funny. Some were not.
The number of private messages that told me what I had done wrong outnumbered the ones that said I should wear them and that pink was flattering on anyone. (No, it is not.)
Not one person even asked if the clothes washer was at fault. Not one. Lots of suggestions that I had not stripped the color out of the original (ivory) pants, that I hadn’t used enough hot water, that I probably didn’t wait long enough–about a dozen blaming messages.
Two days later, success. Choosing blue over black, to allow the pants to be purpley-blue if the color didn’t take fully, I had three pairs of blue pants. Again, I posted the photos.
Do you think lots of people told me I had gotten it right? Nope. This time, I was “lucky.” Not smart, not clever, not even a good dye-applier or reader of directions. Lucky.
We do this to ourselves, and we also do it to others. When things work well, we are lucky. When they don’t, we beat ourselves (and others) up for being stupid, not reading directions, missing something.
It’s not stupidity and it’s not luck. Sometimes we interpret directions differently than the writer wants us to, sometimes the washer drains the dye out before we’re ready. Something goes wrong, we figure out what, we work around the problem. It’s called learning.
When things go well, it’s not luck. We thought the steps through, we solved a previous problem, we used experience. That’s being smart and putting experience to use. But we are afraid to say that. We are afraid to be the tall poppy, the one who knows.
Don’t beat yourself up. Use your skills and your experience. And if you fail, figure out what went wrong and a work-around.
One of my favorite quotes applies here: Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.
It’s been credited to everyone from Will Rogers, through Mark Twain (who would not have time to write books had he said all those things he was supposed to have said), to A.A. Milne. Whoever said it was brilliant. As are you, when you learn how to correct a mistake.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing.