The email said it in clear words. I had made a mistake. And people weren’t too happy about it.
Making a mistake in my world can be a big deal, at least in my mind. It brings up fears and shame. I start to worry that I will lose my job (something that has happened) and I feel incredibly stupid. No one else makes mistakes, I say to myself. You 47 years old and you make mistakes like a 12-year-old. Get it together! Says another voice.
It has always been funny to me how we talk about mistakes and how we actually feel about them. People talk about mistakes as the thing that makes us human and helps us to be better people. But when mistakes actually happen, they are treated as serious breaches of protocol. Because I see this disconnect in how people handle mistakes, it makes me even more rigid and hyper-sensitive in trying to not make a mistake, because when that happens, people don’t take it lightly. They get angry and at times look for ways to get rid of you.
I’ve been thinking about this in the context of being autistic. It’s easy for someone with autism to view a mistake as a world-shattering event. A lot of writers try to write advice on how to calm people down and see that mistakes happen. While that’s true I’d love if there were a blog post on how to deal with mistakes as an autistic when your neurotypical boss gets angry because you included the wrong information in an email or when you forget to check the voicemail message that day.
I’ve always been someone that hated mistakes. If I had a low grade on a quiz, I would turn it over because I didn’t want to see it. I would spend hours on a journalism story in college making sure every fact was correct. I don’t like mistakes, and it’s hard to calm down and accept that I do make mistakes (sometimes because of being autistic), because sometimes there are severe consequences for making a mistake.
Sometimes what I wish is that someone could come and tell me things will be okay and that I can learn from this. Sometimes I want to be told that I am still worthy and loved even when I mess up, especially when I mess up big time.
I’m going to have to find a way to accept that mistakes will happen and learn to live with the mistake and how to correct it. And to let go of a certain amount of perfectionism. But I think it will take a while to deal with the ongoing fear because the worst did happen.
Sometimes life for someone with autism is not just difficult, but downright scary.