Mistakes were not tolerated in my house growing up. If you didn’t do something right the first time, it meant you’d never get it right. It was the attitude with which my father approached everything he did, especially when he cooked. And whenever he did something wrong, he got angry at himself. Unfortunately, his attitude of failure also affected how he treated everyone around him.
I remember I went to cut the bread before dinner one night when my father stopped me. He said I was using the wrong knife and he gave me the right one. But every time after that when I went to grab a knife to cut anything, he would check to make sure it was the right one. Because that one time I made a mistake meant I was bound to repeat it.
It’s part of the reason I’m so hard on myself when I do something wrong. When I try to do something, sometimes it feels like he’s still watching me, just waiting for me to make a mistake just so he can say, “I knew you couldn’t do it.”
One night when I was cooking dinner for my husband, I burned the garlic. It was the first time I made him pasta sauce from my family recipe, and I was so disappointed I’d failed.
I was so angry with myself. In fact, my attitude was very similar to the way my father acted when he cooked something and it didn’t turn out the way he wanted. It felt like the whole evening had been ruined.
When I served it to him, it was with an attitude of failure. “I ruined the sauce,” I said. “All you can taste is the burnt garlic.”
My husband’s response was exactly what I needed. First, he chuckled. It helped me to put into perspective what I saw as my dismal failure, and I found myself laughing along with him.
Then he said, “Well, that didn’t work this time. Maybe it’ll be better next time.”
When he tasted it, he told me he didn’t agree that I’d ruined the sauce. It tasted fine to him. His lighthearted and encouraging attitude helped me to change what I saw as a complete failure to something I can improve upon in the future. And he believed that I could do it, that I wasn’t bound to repeat my mistake.
Now, when I approach cooking, or anything that I’m a little nervous to try, I know that it won’t be a complete disaster if it doesn’t quite work out the first time. I can try again, and I will use what I’ve learned to make it better.
My husband has helped me see that failing doesn’t make me a failure. I no longer hear the negative voice that says I can’t do it; I can only hear my husband’s supportive words, and his love has given me the confidence to try until I succeed.