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Much of my internal dialogue goes something like this:
“Don’t fuck this up, don’t fuck this up, don’t fuck this up.”
It can be with something as simple as, “Don’t drop this cap on the floor,” because it seems every time I open any container with a lid, the lid ends up on the floor. Or it can be something bigger, like when I had Polina Marinova Pompliano on the podcast and didn’t realize until an hour into our conversation that I didn’t press record.
Polina is the creator of The Profile newsletter. She was an early supporter of my writing and someone who has inspired me with her content, consistency, and work ethic ever since I started writing under a pseudonym. She’s a guest I wanted to have on the podcast for almost a year. It was a BIG DEAL to have her on and also why I put it off for so long. Because I was afraid I would fuck it up.
But wait, the story gets worse.
Once I realized my mistake, I couldn’t let it go. For almost five minutes, I threw a pity party for myself while Polina assured me it was totally fine and we could start over. Even though I knew she was right to move on, the mean and super dramatic voice in my head told me I was a total moron who had ruined everything.
I even had a moment of self-awareness when I told Polina I knew when I listened to this back I’d be annoyed with myself for wallowing for so long. And yet, I continued to wallow.
During our conversation, Polina talked about how, when Spanx founder Sara Blakely was young, her father would ask her and her brother at the dinner table to share their biggest failure of the week. If they didn’t have something to share, he’d be disappointed. Failure was redefined for Blakely as not trying new things. “Instead of failure becoming an outcome, it simply became about not trying,” Blakely said. “And that truly is the only failure — to not try.”
For a year, I put off inviting Polina on the podcast because I was scared to fail. And then, the worst thing happened — I failed.
Polina is a wonderful human. Her public image is very true to who she is as a person, although I find her sillier and funnier and slightly more dramatic in person, which only makes her more relatable and charming. She stayed on Zoom with me for 2.5 hours after our kids went to bed. It was a late night, and thanks to her graciousness, I have an awesome conversation to share with you.
My failure was a lesson. Obviously I hope to never make the same mistake of not pressing record again, but the bigger lesson was to embrace my mistakes as opportunities for growth. There is something inside me that feels the need to dwell and berate myself, I think especially in front of others. As if I needed Polina to know how much I cared about this interview, and the only way to show her how much I cared was to beat myself up for it.
But when I listened to the painful exchange back as I edited the podcast, I cringed at my pathetic sulking. What I desperately wanted Charlie of the past to do was move on. Stop complaining, stop apologizing, stop buying into the story that this was all one big self-fulfilling prophecy.
Even though I had the self-awareness to understand what was happening, I didn’t know how to stop it. But now I do.
The next time I make a mistake, the kind, nurturing voice will drown out the mean girl. I will speak loving words to myself, and tell her it’s okay to make mistakes, and remind her that personal growth is one of our core values.
After the call, I walked downstairs and told Sam what happened. I was no longer angry or feeling sorry for myself. In the safe space of our bedroom, I reflected. I made a mistake, I beat myself for that mistake, and those things combined to create a learning experience. Failure for the win!
Please enjoy my conversation with Polina.
Until next week,