Get some perspective and move on! Your "It was ok I guess" might be someone else's "It was amazing"
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
I spent a 3 hour commute home (congestion on the M1) mulling over something that happened in the Studio that morning. I'd gotten distracted in a live broadcast. My livestream wasn't muted and for a couple of seconds before the editor turned if off I could hear myself in echo, I knew something was wrong but I was mid live presentation. As soon as we finished I apologised to the team - I knew that we were managing a change in tech and due to reasons outside our control we had to go live late anyway, and I didn't want to be the icing on a "What happened?!" cake. Even after arriving home, I couldn't bring myself to watch through the show (something my ego ususally enjoys) because I wasn't prepared to live through the "moritifying lapse" again just yet, and while I forced myself to do my follow up admin, I knew I lacked my usual enthusiasm.
Does this sound familiar to you?
Something goes awry - it may not be directly your fault, but you are part of the situation, and that emotional tilt (read about that here) affects at least the next few hours if not the whole day?
What usually happens next for you? Talking to friends of colleague about it? Or, like me, if you are in a more isolated profession - wallowing over it?
If so - note what is actually happening to you. By reliving and reliving what you think happened you are imprinting it more and more firmly, and with that what was most likely a tiny oversight is getting bigger and bigger in your head. It's not healthy and that heightened emotion based in assumption (bear in mind in this case I hadn't actually seen the mistake for myself) can sometimes render you truly useless for the rest of the day. (And you did that to yourself)
Then what? The chastising? Oh you're useless aren't you? ...says that little voice in your head. Which pulls you deeper into the wallowing (and getting little of any use done). All this because of an error which you know happened by don't in truth know the extent of.
Let's not forget a healthy dose of batting back compliments - I am ashamed to admit I even ignored a positive comment from someone who I not only respect entirely but who has no reason to lie to me - and would always say it straight if there was a problem telling me "Great Show." (I've emailed her now to say thank you).
And finally? Blame? Not content with bashing yourself you start thinking of excuses to lessen the blow "Ah, but we had a new tech team in." "Oh it was actually X's fault for not muting." That's hardly going to build a positive relationship with your colleagues - especially if they are new!
Now hopefully, despite this complete 3-act psychodrama which has so far lasted longer than Les Miserables when it was first performed, you have - as I did - managed to drag a little work out of yourself; you did not voice any blame; and you have steeled yourself to watch the offending moment and get a reality check on what actually happened so you can avoid it next time - the bit under your control.
Here's the "offending" moment.
Did you catch it - it happens from around 10secs - 26secs as you can faintly hear the livestream and I lose momentum.
Yes, when I watched it I thought "And you wasted half a day over THAT?" - I realise (now) I didn't even flicker my eyes to see what was going on but carried on presenting! In my head, I'd stopped, not made any sense, looked to where the sound was coming from and practically stopped talking. I know I'm not a fiction writer - but that was some story I'd created in my head...and if I can do it - over that - it wouldn't surprise me if a few of you do too!
My one saving grace was that by the time I walked my dog in the morning (so this was making a mistake at about 1pm, thinking about it from 2 - 5pm largely eschewing all other work, not doing the thing I do like - yes, I do enjoy personal w*nk at my work when I'm proud of it, until 7am the next day...from me, a trained psychologist...) I had come to the self compassionate appreciation that "Actually whatever did happen, I know I got through it, it was live, these things happen and I handled it like the professional I am."
...then I watched it and thought - I need to use my compelete inability to get some perspective in this instance as a lesson!
So what have I learned:
1. It's ok to slip up. You can be as practised as you like at anything, but sometimes you make a mis-step. It happens - maybe use it as a learning experience for you and for others...as I am now.
2. Emotional Tilt has the potential to derail - work with facts not (exaggerated) assumptions. Be mindful that it happens/is happening. Try to gain perspective by dealing with the reality not the assumption - in my case I could have just watched the video immediately before getting into the car!
3. At the very least contain your own emotions - do not voice blame. For me, I always make it a point not to voice any form of onus onto others without double checking my facts. This is a strategy I use which seems to suit me well. If you can appreciate that as a person we are a series of interactions as well as traits eg. I am generally a very positive person, but I have a short temper when I am frustrated (or with specific people); I manage my outbursts by constantly ensuring that before I "lose it" I have gathered all the facts...by that point it generally stops the stream of consciousness and actually enables me to make my point in a concise - and usually Numbered paragraphed way! A bonus is, I've resolved far more complaints since consciously taking this approach.
4. Remember, when you are experienced, your "It was OK", may well be someone else's "That was so great." One of the key phrases I always used to tell my casts when directing theatre is "The audience doesn't necessarily know what should happen." Therefore - if you make a mistake but are adept enough to cover it - it is likely only you and your colleagues will realise - and sometimes not even them. i) Don't let it affect the rest of your performance; and ii) This is why we rehearse - so that you are capable and confident enough should anything go wrong. ...and perhaps this is the key to this article - which regular self-compassion practice also helped me arrive at (albeit after 12 hours, but before I'd watched what really happened). If you know your job and do it well, then chances are, a "Not so good" for you - because you know what you had in mind, can still be an "Awesome well done" from others.
Always measure yourself against reality rather than feed the assumption.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt