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The Lessons I Learned from Falling on My Face

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Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. – Confucius

On June 28th I was walking home from dinner and went splat a block from home. I fell on my face. Literally. I’ll spare you the gory details but suffice to say that it was pitch black, it happened in front of a house under construction, and the workers left debris on the sidewalk that I didn’t see. And yes, there was blood. I did have my phone with me but it was in my purse. I was in shock and didn’t think to call 911.

Here are some relevant lessons I learned looking back at my experience that may be helpful to you. Basically all the gain without the pain. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, I’m happy to report that I’m on the road to a full recovery.

Ask for help: I’m a very private person and I don’t usually share my problems. In this case, I arrived home after laying on the ground for what seemed like an eternity but was probably no longer than 5 minutes and was shaken up (on top of bloodied and bruised). I tried calling a friend in San Diego who is an ER doctor but she didn’t answer. By now it was almost 10 PM and I texted the only other doctor I knew (let’s call her Monika). She happened to have been a neighbor who I befriended since she moved out. We were due to have dinner that week and she had to reschedule. Her name was near the top of the messages on my phone. I texted her and she got on FaceTime to talk to me. I am so grateful that she did. Not only did she tell me what to do (and not to) she agreed to see me the next morning. Thanks to her, I have no permanent scars on my face and have had someone who cares involved in every step of my recovery.

Build Relationships: I would have never knocked on Monika’s door had she still lived in my building. That would have felt too transactional plus I didn’t really know her beyond saying hello in the elevator. I felt more comfortable reaching out because I was just starting a friendship with her. I knew that I would find a way to pay her kindness forward.

Find the experts: In medicine, like in business there are specialists and generalists. The morning after my accident I needed a specialist to fix the gash on my forehead and the scrapes on my nose and knees. I was lucky that Monika is a dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon – exactly who I needed to patch me up. Had I gone to the ER, a resident or intern would have put stitches in that would have left their mark for good.

Look under the surface: I was so focused on what was visible that I didn’t notice some other issues that began to arise once my wounds started healing. For example: the bump on my nose from where my glasses fell off my face or my front tooth that felt “funny” or my left wrist that wasn’t moving so well. I’ve been dealing with these issues ever since and they have had longer term ramifications than the more prominent initial injuries.

Short term pain for long term gain: I opted for steristrips instead of stitches. I used vinegar to clean my wounds (doctor’s orders) so I smelled like salad dressing for weeks. I stopped going to pilates and yoga classes so I wouldn’t sustain further injuries. Ultimately I didn’t choose short cuts but rather weighed my options and always opted for the best long term solutions.

Forget perfect: I’ve always been a perfectionist. In every part of my life but especially my appearance. All of the sudden, I looked (and felt) broken. Imperfect. It was hard and I spent the first week hiding. And then I got over myself and realized that people weren’t running away when they saw me coming. I got back on my schedule and moved everything forward the best I could.

Related: How to Deal With the Quest for Perfect

Everything can wait: My biggest concern on the night of the accident was how I’d proceed with the photo shoot I’d scheduled for the following week. After 10 years, it was time for new headshots and I had everything and everyone lined up: photographer, location, makeup artist, hairdresser etc. It takes a village after all. When I told Monika about the shoot she told me that it would take 2-3 weeks before I would be picture perfect. Even with Photoshop. So I rescheduled. And… nothing bad happened. Sure, my marketing materials took longer to produce but then again, nothing was lost.

Show gratitude: I’m getting better at not only saying thank you directly but acknowledging the people who go the extra mile. I’ve written positive reviews for the doctors and others who have been kind throughout this period. I even put up an uncharacteristic (for me) Facebook post to remind all of us that there are people who are there for us, even in this divisive time. I’ve been humbled throughout this healing process and encouraged to share my experience.

Failure isn’t fatal: While this was an accident, I did feel like an idiot for falling on my face. I know that I wasn’t responsible but I was reminded that if you can get up you’ll be OK. That life keeps putting obstacles in front of you (especially in this case) but that it’s what we do to overcome them that matters.

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