Fuck It Up
I hereby invite you to give yourself permission to fuck it up. Permission to fuck it up. Permission to fuck it up. PERMISSION TO FUCK IT UPPPPPP.
Do too much. Do too little. Do it backwards. Fuck it up. Do the best you can. It’ll be enough. Fuck it up. Fuck it up. Fuck it up. Forget to do it, then it’s too late. Do something totally different instead. Turn it on its head. Fuck it up. Don’t make your bed, break your best habits. Take the easy way out. Do it wrong. Don’t do it at all. Fuck it up. Break your own rules. Break someone else’s. Break your own heart. Fuck it up. Break someone else’s. Fuck it up.
Fuck it up. Fuck it up. Fuck it up.
The best news about mistakes is that most of them are fixable and the rest were probably unavoidable.
Many of us, most of the time, are in a prison of our own making. The bars are our own expectations of what we should be doing with ourselves. We inherit those prison bars from our well-meaning mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, co-workers, strangers in line at the Clipper machine who are trying to catch the next Richmond-bound train. Others hand the prison bars to us and we dutifully weld them into a box, all nice and neat.
For women, that box looks like not being perfect. Our culture says to women – In order to be worthy of love, you must be perfect – the perfect student, the perfect girlfriend/wife, the perfect mother, the perfect professional, the perfect neighbor, the perfect citizen of the world. You must be more competent than your male colleagues or you’ll never be promoted, but not so competent that they are intimidated by you that they suddenly find reasons you’re “not a culture fit.” You must look out for your children and make sure they don’t come to any harm, but not so much that you’re the dreaded helicopter mom. You must be sexy enough to attract a man, but not so sexy that everyone, especially other women, think you’re a whore.
Fuck all that shit. Even if you are perfect, someone will hate you for being so damn perfect. The more perfect you are the more people will take glee in shooting you down. Martha Stewart was hated so much precisely BECAUSE she knew how to set a perfect table, roast the beef Wellington, all the while sitting in the CEO seat of one of the biggest media companies in the world.
Fuck it up. Fuck it up. Fuck it up.
For men, give yourself permission to fuck it up by not having your shit sorted, by letting other people notice that, and by being willing to screw it up and then admit to screwing it up. Men fuck shit up all of the time, you just don’t let yourselves admit it. You don’t admit it to others. You might not even admit to yourself. Give yourself permission to go after what your heart (not ego) wants. Tell your heart it can have everything it wants and more.
If/when you fuck that up, tell yourself you fucked it up. DO NOT TELL YOURSELF you ARE a fuck up. Our culture has a massive problem. We don’t know the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt says “I did something stupid.” Shame says “I am stupid.” It may seem like a small linguistic quibble, but the difference is huge.
Fucking up doesn’t mean you’re a fuck up. Fucking up means you’re pushing yourself to your edge – trying new things that you’re not 100% capable of. It means you’re showing up and doing the work. The only way to never fuck up is to never engage with anyone, ostracize yourself from the world, never go anywhere or speak to anyone. Don’t have a pet (you might fail to perfectly care for their needs). Don’t order food delivery (you might miss their arrival notification and cause them consternation as they wait at your door).
It’s bitter, but there are people who match this description, called agoraphobics by Western medicine and hikkomori by Japanese culture. They’re still fucking up too. The web of people who love you doesn’t go away when you shut the door on them. Most of all though, they’re fucking up for themselves. From one end of the scale to the other – we’re all fucking it up all the time. Might as well cut yourself some slack. Grant yourself a little grace. Let yourself be loved not despite but because of your imperfections. Thank your wild little heart for trying so hard.
The day after I wrote this chapter I gave myself permission to fuck it up. I took it seriously. I did fuck it up. I took up space in the world. I drew attention to myself. I promoted myself too much. I spoke uncarefully. I didn’t perform niceness. I said words that annoyed others with their plainness.
If you take this advice seriously you will actually fuck it up sometimes. Now sometimes you’ll dare greatly and the world will greet you with kisses on both cheeks and high fives. More often than not, though, when you allow yourself to be seen, some shit will go down. It just will.
I literally got the heart stopping message “We need to talk. There have been complaints about how you… are in Slack. It’s not just one thing, it’s a whole lot of little things.” I think that last sentence was supposed to make me feel better, but hearing a laundry list of all the ways I was kinda pissing people off was cold comfort. I mean, if it had been a big single thing I could apologize and move on. This was… less than ideal. My inner gremlins said “people think you’re rude. They don’t want to hear what you’re saying. Sit down and shut up. Be a good girl. You should’ve known better. Stay invisible and people will like you better. Better to be unknown and unthought-of than hated.”
These voices of mine have been on the job, keeping me safe from upsetting others from very long ago. At about age four we reach the developmental milestone where we realize other people have their own motivations and that those motivations are different than our own. From that point forward we learn how to interact with others’ expectations, requests, and requirements. At four years old, you have at least another dozen years of depending on your caretakers for your very life - food, clothing, love, support. The voices that tell you to comply with what’s asked of and expected of you kept you alive. They did their jobs well. You needed to learn to “sit down and shut up” insofar as you needed to learn to self-soothe your emotions in order to become a self-sufficient, contributing member of society.
However, the voices are, for most of us, keeping us too safe. We cut ourselves off from the most real and joyful parts of ourselves by sitting down, shutting up, and staying small. These voices tell us that’s required to stay alive, but really it’s provoked by situations things that *feel* like life or death - fewer Instagram likes, responses to our slack posts, the threat of getting a bad look from our boss, boyfriend, cat groomer, Lyft driver, checkout clerk, and on and on. Being estranged from these people no longer means actual death. You will not starve to death if your manager or girlfriend is annoyed at you. They will not cast you entirely out of society to contend with the mountain lions, bears, and lack of potluck suppers.
On one extreme we have people so trapped by their anxiety that they literally shut themselves up save the occasional food and weed delivery. On the other we have people so trapped by their anxiety that they do whatever everyone wants of them. One side privileges only the needs of themselves, the other privileges the needs of everyone else. The person who constantly people pleases at the expense of their own desires ends up pleasing no one, not even themselves, and often turns into a victim.
“How can you be angry at me, I’m doing all of this for you?” they plead. “How can you ask more of me, can’t you see how over my limit I already am?” they demand. If you have heard yourself say any of these things, you’re in dire need of a permission slip to fuck it up.
Life is not being done to you. No one is making you do anything. You get to decide how you want to show up in the world. If you feel like you have no option other than the one you “must” do, I guarantee you’re wrong. There are always other options. I find when I feel I have no choice it’s because I don’t like any of my choices. I’ve been in plenty of situations where I only had unpleasant options. I’ve never been in a situation where I truly only had one option.
So. Give yourself permission to fuck it up. If you’re stuck, give yourself permission to fuck it up in the most fun way possible. What’s the wildest way you could succeed? What’s the best story you could get out of a flame-out of a failure?
Fuck it up, fuck it up, fuck it up. You’re going to at some point anyway. Might as well write your own story.
Get a piece of paper, if you haven’t already, and write it down. Put it up somewhere you’ll see it daily. Sign your name to it, seal it with a kiss, smudge sage… whatever it takes to make it feel like a legal document invested with real authority.
If you’re so inclined, post a picture of your permission to fuck it up with hashtag #lovelock and see others for inspiration. We’re all bolder when we’re bold together.