A Healthy Dose of Self-Loathing

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors! Sorry about the. Lack of a post last week, but I wanted to take a little time off for my birthday. I’m 33 now… so I figure I’lll. Know what that’s supposed to mean next year. I try not to get too navel-gazy… the lint gets up my nose.

Besides, there’s been plenty of stuff going on to keep me occupied. I’m very good at my job (of writing AND baking, fortunately)- and my day job keeps finding ways for me to demonstrate it.

Often repeatedly. In the same manner.

Animated GIF of the President from the West Wing pounding his head on his desk

That said, no one became proficient at anything by “winning” all the time. You gotta screw up sometimes… so how do you react?

It’s the Pride that makes it Painful.

Early in my career, one of my literary heroes was Allan Quatermain- the protagonist of H. Rider Haggard’s Victorian adventure novels, such as King Solomon’s Mines. In one of the books, Quatermain lays out a very important- but often problematic- mindset that I’ll paraphrase here:

When a man makes his name out of doing something, he likes very much to believe he is good at it.”

In context, Allan- a lifelong hunter- finds himself needing to pull off a difficult and distant shot, and is trying not to think about the possibility of missing not just because of the danger he and his friends would be in, but also his wounded pride. “The famous hunter misses a shot to save his life.”

Pulling it back from a fictional colonial African veldt to the bakeshop… when it comes to some of the comparatively simple tasks of my job- I very much like not to screw them up.

But mistakes happen. I get distracted, I don’t hear a timer go off, something gets overbaked, etcetera- and not only do I have the knowledge and experience to know something went wrong, I’ve got the professional pride to feel like crap about it.

Everyone messes up- and knowing that doesn’t always help. It’s the pride that makes simple screw-ups painful, and that makes us slap our foreheads for hours over a “newbie” mistake.

Amazingly, the healthier response isn’t “don’t let it bother you/ get over it”, anymore than it’s “self-flagellate, curse yourself/the heavens, and drown in regret.”

Let It Happen… then Let It Go.

It was a simple thing I screwed up. Baking two products off the same timer, and I forgot one was still in the oven while the other kept going. Six pain au lardon were left edible, but unsellable.

It was a loss, yes, but an extremely rare one for me. No one got really mad- except for me, that is. Seven years into my baking career, and I missed a f***ing timer. Our wholesale dispatcher asked if I was alright.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Just give me a minute to be mad at myself, and then I’ll be okay.”

“Oh hell yeah, man. Healthiest way to deal with it. My wife knows- when I mess up, she tries to tell me it’ll be okay, and I say ‘I know, just give me a minute to feel like an a-hole, and I’ll be alright.”

Sounds sorta counterproductive, doesn’t it? We’re always told not to get down ourselves, to keep negativity out of our thoughts, that “we can do it,” “cheer up,” and “stay positive.”

Screw that noise. Shut up and let me be mad at myself for a minute.

Here’s the deal- negative stuff happens. It’s part of life, and pretending it doesn’t exist, or that it doesn’t affect you, or that you just need to focus on the positive, is not only intellectually dishonest- it’s emotionally harmful.

Dealing with the negativity of life- how to parse it mentally, and accept it into your experience- builds your emotional resilience and makes you mentally stronger. Pretending it doesn’t exist, consequently, leaves you emotionally fragile and crippled.

This is the real danger of “toxic positivity culture.” Rather than accepting your emotions, you deny they exist- and therefore a solid chunk of your being.

What’s the answer then? Let it happen, then let it go. Give yourself a minute to be mad.

Here’s the thing about emotions- your emotions are always valid. Your reasons for them may not be, and your BEHAVIOR during them may not be, but your emotions themselves are.

This absolutely doesn’t give you a license to flip out and scream and smoulder. You are always responsible for your own actions and behavior, regardless of how you feel. Understanding yourself and how you act is your job- it’s no one else’s responsibility to “just avoid you when you get like that.” It’s not professional, not cool, and not right.

Not even if you’re a panda

Take a minute to pause. Feel the emotion, acknowledge it… then let it go.

In my case, I owned up to overbaking the pain au lardon, and while I couldn’t have anymore ready in time to go out to wholesale, I was able to have some ready to sell as retail. The overbaked ones were edible, but unsellable, so I just put them on a tray with a note-

“Matt screwed up. Enjoy!”

At least I couldn’t add food waste to my crimes that day. Once you recognize your emotions, you can start to find the humor in them- and the humor can help make it easier to learn, and don’t make that mistake again.

Stay Classy,

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