Imperfections and Lessons Learned

I want to share a personal story from over the past few weeks, which I think revealed some worthwhile lessons.

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About 3 weeks ago, I came to the end of a long writing project to complete my new book; I was excited about its release and hopeful for its potential to help others. I was also very happy about beginning to get some sleep again after months of working long hours into the night. These positive feelings were brought to a halt about 10 days after I published, when my father bravely asked me, “do you know there are some typos in your book?” This, after he’d only read a few chapters. I’m sure others had noticed as well, but weren’t going to say anything…leave it to dad:-)! That’s impossible, I thought. It was professionally edited, by someone who was error-free in editing my first book, and I read it SO many times, both before it was edited and another quick skim afterward. How could we have missed something? But, taking a more thorough look, my father was right; and to my dismay, the typos weren’t just confined to the first few chapters.

The errors were nothing that affected content, but still, the minor typos reflected poorly on me as an author. I realize that this sort of thing isn’t unheard of, especially in a nearly 400 page book; but that didn’t stop me from feeling pretty awful. It was a huge project that consumed a lot of my life, and I wanted to feel pride in it. Through a thick fog of negative feelings (and late into the night for several nights), I was able to find and correct what I think is all of the mistakes, generate new files, and now the paperback version is fine (and the errors in the Kindle file will be ironed out within a week). I know that, in the grand scheme of life, one day this won’t matter; however, in moments of feeling like you’ve failed in one way or another, most people know that it can be difficult to keep perspective.

I thought about just keeping this to myself, but then it occurred to me that this experience really provides a glimpse into some things I address frequently in my books. First, it’s a very real example that I’m FAR from being a perfect person who has everything together in my life. I could blame sleep-deprivation, mommy-brain, or other difficult things going on; but the point that I think many people can relate to is that we all sometimes fail to live up to our own expectations.

Whether it’s online, on TV, or in real life, it’s common to look to others who we think have it all together, and then criticize ourselves for not being that way; but in reality, those we look up to aren’t perfect either. We are all just doing our best, and whether your perceived failures are that you binge, that you aren’t an ideal weight, that your relationships are unhealthy, that you aren’t as successful in your career as you’d like to be; or that, like me, you (mildly) screw up a major part of your life’s work.

Feelings of being a failure are normal, and it’s okay to dwell in those feelings for a little while, but the most important thing is that you can begin to see a way out. You have to be able to take that first brave step in order to fix the problems that are dragging you down—whether that step is to dismiss just one binge urge, prepare yourself one nourishing meal, engage in some light exercise, seek relationship counseling, research educational paths for a career change, find ways to be happier right where you are; or, piece by piece, start to correct the mistakes that you’ve made–to the extent that is possible.  When you take action steps like this, each day feels a little more hopeful.

Another thing this typo “snafu” helped me see was how fortunate I am that this problem is fixable (because sadly, some problems in life are not), which immediately made me draw the connection to bulimia and binge eating disorder being fixable problems. They aren’t permanently written into your brain. Through the repeated action of not bingeing, the faulty wiring in your brain is erased, and you return to normal…not perfect, but normal. Right now, you may very well feel shame, but the more you can move forward despite those feelings (remembering how fortunate you are that this can be fixed), the more hope you will feel for a future free of your temporary brain glitch. Give yourself as much forgiveness as you can for your actions up until this point, knowing that you can change them going forward.

…and on a final note, I hope that those of you who got an early copy of my book will also grant me forgiveness, and use the typos to remember that there are lessons to be learned from imperfection.