Do you have a recent really embarrassing moment? The following story is probably the most embarrassing mistake of my entire life. I still cringe when I think about it. And I am no stranger to humiliating moments! But this one takes the cake! However, it was also one of my greatest learning experiences, and I hope I can avoid doing something this stupid ever again!
A Simple Project Goes Very, Very Wrong
I’m on the Parent Advisory Council for my son’s Early Childhood School. Essentially, it’s a slightly different version of a PTA or PTO. For the two years I had been involved, our school’s administrator had been this amazing woman, but now she was retiring. Via email, our group planned a small party for her, and we all agreed to take a task. My task was to make a dessert for everyone to enjoy at the party. That’s it. Just one dessert. Easy, right?
I like to consider myself a bit of an amateur baker. It’s something I really enjoy doing, although my laziness gets in the way of being a true baker (I will, for example, probably never buy a scale on which to measure my ingredients, even though any baker worth his salt insists this is the only way to really get the right amounts).
So, I have a small cache of untried recipes that I like to keep handy for just this kind of occasion. For this party, I was choosing between two different cheesecake recipes. One of them was a no-bake, full-sized cheesecake with strawberries and rhubarb. The other was a cheesecake tartlet recipe that did require baking, but only needed strawberries. I headed to the grocery store with both recipes in hand, deciding to look for the ingredients to both and let the availability of rhubarb (and perhaps the price) decide which recipe I would actually make for the party.
The Day Of The Party
I chose the tartlet recipe. I bought all the ingredients I needed (a few days beforehand) and brought it all home, so I would be ready to “simply” throw it together the day of the party.
In those few days, between the grocery store trip and the actual party day, something happened to my brain. I still don’t really know how, but I got mixed up about which recipe I had chosen to make. So, on baking day, I put the kids down for a nap and got started on my tartlets. The recipe required two separate “stop-downs”, in which you had to simply let ingredients rest before you moved on to the next step. At the end of the second “stop-down”, I put the tartlets into the fridge to chill. Though I had read the recipe all the way through when I was planning to make it, I neglected to read it all the way through on Baking Day, and was simply reading one line at a time.
At this point, I was running late, and I had to shower and get ready. So, still thinking I had chosen the no-bake recipe, I stopped following the recipe just before the last line, assumed I was done, and cleaned up my kitchen and raced to get ready for the party. Towards the end of my shower, my timer went off, indicating my tartlets had chilled for the required period of time and were now ready to go. I pulled them out of the fridge… and noticed how “gloopy” they still looked. So, with a little time left before I had to leave, I put them back in the fridge to chill a little more.
Still Not Looking Quite Right, But I Had Run Out of Time
With no choice but to bring my dessert as it was to the party and hope that a least the middle of the tartlets were chilled, I threw them and myself in the car, not even thinking to consult the recipe to see if I had missed a step, so sure I had chosen a no-bake recipe and wondering what had gone wrong.
At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering just what the heck is wrong with me. Because first of all, who the heck doesn’t read the directions all the way through? Especially with a new recipe? And then, when things are going wrong, why wouldn’t I simply go back through my directions and figure out what had happened?
I Don’t Have a Great Answer For You
In my defense, I was a little short on time. Which was making me panicky, and feeling even more scattered.
I was also in a bad place in my mental life. I wasn’t planning things. I was disorganized, and I was probably suffering from depression, and not really allowing myself to acknowledge this.
But really, the fact is, I was just trying to do too many things at once. I was showering, cooking, putting on makeup, doing my hair and getting ready to go somewhere. That’s just too much! Add to this my lack of planning and unhappy mental state, and I was dooming myself to failure without even trying.
The Horrible Truth
I brought the dessert to the party. A few people skipped it, and a few people ate it. Including our administrator whom I admired so much. I was hoping to impress people with my simple, delicious recipe. Instead, I was apologizing for its “weirdness” and only eating it myself out of a desire to see just how badly it had turned out. Luckily, it did still taste pretty darn good. Imagine what it could have tasted like if I had made it correctly!
The people who ate it were all really polite. They said don’t worry about the runny-ness, and complimented the taste. It wasn’t until I was driving home from the meeting, reliving my regret at not having made “the perfect dessert”, that I had the horrible, sinking feeling that I had been very, very stupid, and skipped an important step.
Humiliation and Utter Panic
I walked into my house, and without even saying hi to my husband or my kids, I headed straight for my kitchen and pulled out the tartlet recipe. I read the last line. I don’t even remember exactly what it said, but a bake time and temperature were definitely included.
I felt sick. I realized (why did I only realize this now?) that there were raw eggs in the recipe. My anxiety, combined with complete humiliation, spiraled. What if I made everyone sick? What if someone had to go to the hospital because of my stupidity? On top of which, I just felt so dumb.
I Had To Do The Right Thing
Even though it was the very last thing I wanted to do, I wrote an email to the group that had attended the party. Feeling like I wanted to crawl into a hole and die, I admitted I had neglected to read the recipe, that I had made it wrong and skipped an important step (one might even say THE most important step), and I apologized many, many times, as profusely as I could. I hit send, and went to bed, feeling like the dumbest human being alive.
Before I Could Learn My Lesson, I Wasted A Lot Of Time
I cried. I beat myself up. I called my mom and told her how stupid I felt (she was really nice and comforted me, but I still didn’t feel much better). In hindsight, this was the most unnecessary part of the entire learning process. It did nothing except make me feel worse. Everyone experiences this, and in some cases, maybe it’s just a part of life. But I tend to be a touch on the dramatic side, and I can tell you for sure that I should have brushed off the dirt and gotten over myself much sooner than I did.
What Can You Learn From An Embarrassing Mistake?
Well, what did I learn? Obviously, I learned (or, rather, re-learned) that when I’m cooking an unfamiliar recipe- or honestly, any recipe- to read the directions! All the way through! Heck, even a couple of times!
But there is a much deeper reality and lesson here. There usually is.
You see, I often have to come to terms with my own obsession for perfectionism. I was so concerned with how much I was going to impress people with my “professional dessert”. I wasn’t taking a deep breath, calming down and focusing on the much more important parts of my project: doing something nice for a woman I admired, and enjoying baking a fun new dessert. There didn’t need to be some crazy “WOW factor”. If, unintentionally, I did manage to impress some people, then fantastic. But my desperate desire to seem like “THE MOM WHO CAN DO IT ALL” had led to a ridiculous, embarrassing mistake.
Everyone Is Human
I got lucky, and no one got sick from my error. Thank goodness.
I received two really kind email responses to my embarrassed email- one from our administrator, saying she thought the dessert was delicious the way it was, and she didn’t worry about raw eggs because she had eaten plenty of raw cookie dough in her life! As true as that statement is for most people, I recognized that I was pretty lucky no one at the party had an allergy or some other negative reaction (although you would always hope that people would safeguard their own health if they do have allergies or food sensitivities, you can never be sure!).
The other email was from a mom I found particularly intimidating. She was a literacy expert, very tall and beautiful, and clearly an excellent mother. She could not have been more gracious. Her kind words included a hope that I wouldn’t beat myself up over this mistake, that anybody could have made it, and that the dessert was very tasty no matter what!
The Most Important Lesson Of All
This email from that mom was the blessing, and grace, that I needed to try to forgive myself and move on from this incident. So thank goodness she sent it!
I had spent so much time being miserable, worrying about the other moms in the group. Worrying about what they thought of me after learning about this embarrassing mistake. Worrying they thought I was stupid. Obsessing over their opinion of my cooking, my abilities, and wondering if they were angry with me.
It’s entirely possible some of the moms who didn’t reply were angry, or at the very least annoyed. But without confirmation of that fact, and since I was unable to take back my mistake, the only thing I was able to do was say sorry, and express my hopes that everyone was going to be fine. Anything that happened after that was pretty much out of my control. Worrying about their perception of me was a complete waste of my time. It’s a complete waste of anyone’s time. This is something that’s easy to understand, and very difficult to do.
My Hope For You
The next time something like this happens in your life, I want you to do your best to skip the unnecessary steps that I took- beating myself up, crying, worrying about what those other moms thought- and skip right to the most important part. “OK, I made an embarrassing mistake. What did I learn? And how can I prevent this in the future?” Allow yourself to feel the embarrassment. That’s a valid feeling, it’s unavoidable, and every human experiences it. But don’t let it spiral into an unnecessary mental abuse session. You’re human, you’re allowed to be human. The next step is solving the problem (what should I do differently next time), and the step after that is self-love, which is forgiveness.
Next Time, Try This:
I made you a flow chart to fill out for the next time you need a reminder that you’re human, and to practice self-love. You can download it below. I hope it will help you to remember that anyone can make an embarrassing mistake (see above!), and the best thing to do is take the lesson with you, and move on to the next thing!