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Blooper Reel vs Highlight Reel

“Don’t compare your blooper reel to someone else’s highlight reel.”

There are many variations of this quote, and I don’t know who said it first, but I fell in love with it the moment I heard it. This is one of my new favorite emergency mantras to grab at in the face of insecurity, jealousy, and FOMO.

If we imagine life as a play, each scene a progression from the last, we are the stars. The catch is that our play is unscripted. So we’ll muck up sometimes, and that’s okay, until we think about all those “other people” (hiss) who have it all together. Suddenly we feel like the now-unwanted spotlight is stuck on us.

Who are these “other people” that just get it right? Do they really or are you just comparing your life’s outtakes to their final version? I’m willing to bet that for each “oops” you’ve had, many others have experienced the same. Likewise, there exist people out there who have “oopsed” themselves and have wondered why you are so much more put together than they are. Perhaps we all secretly envy each other. Aww, let’s hug it out. 🤗

Months ago, I wrote a post regarding the natural inclination to share our badass moments and cover up our dumbass moments. Take comfort in knowing that everyone has their own special flavor of dumbass moments, but they either don’t talk about it, forget about it, don’t care about it, any combination of the above, or surprise, you don’t notice it because you’re naturally more focused on your own play.

For the sake of curiosity and giggles, I decided to document some of my embarrassing moments over the past few months.

My Blooper Reel

  • Telling my coworker that I think he can be a good PM (Program Manager) because he had a lot of “PM-ness” inside him, except I accidentally skipped the “M” when I spoke.
  • Saying goodbye to someone, crossing the street, then realizing we’re both walking in the same direction just on different sides of the street. I yell at them to point out the humor in the situation, and they pretend not to hear me (or maybe they actually didn’t hear me?), but the people around me sure as hell did! Oh yes, please keep staring.
  • Thanking a guy for something that a different person had done, and he calls me out on it. Both people were the same race, had similar hair and build, and now I feel like a racist.
  • I spend almost 2 hours crafting the perfect email in response to some question at work. When I finally send it, I notice another person had already responded with the same answer long before I did.
  • Someone tells me bad news, and I typo “ass” instead “aww” without realizing this until later.
  • My friend shows me a picture of him and some lady, and I say something containing the words “You and your mom,” to which he responds “That’s my ex-girlfriend.”
  • Running tests that kept failing because of high CPU usage, emailing coworkers complaining about this, only to realize later that the high CPU usage was caused by my tests in the first place.
  • Walking straight into some person because I was on my phone, screaming a reflexive apology, then limping away at the speed of shame while avoiding eye contact with anyone else for the next 10 blocks.

These don’t even cover half of it. Now they might seem trivial to you, but they were horrifying to me when they happened.

Oh, and my highlight reel?

  • Pretty much everything I post on social media.
  • I also keep a collection of “thank you” or complimentary emails/comments/gifts I’ve received.

I will omit listing out the details of every positive interaction I’ve had, though I must say that the little thank yous and compliments, despite their seeming mundanity, actually hold most power in cheering me up on a particularly self-critical day.

My Observations

Get this: My blooper reel impacted me much more than my highlight reel when in the moment. However, upon subsequent revisits, this effect reversed.

Me while in the moment:


Me two weeks later reminiscing about the moment:

Going over my bloopers, I found myself laughing as opposed to lamenting over them. I was also surprised by how much I didn’t care for or even remember some of the items. Clearly, these super embarrassing moments weren’t that important if I couldn’t even remember them. Here’s the kicker though: Over time, I felt more open to taking risks and doing “stupid” things, because I remember “Well, the last 100 times I felt really dumb, it ended up being no big deal later.”

As for my highlights? They never fail to make me take a step back and remember the positive and fortunate aspects of my life and relationships so far. I mean literally, reading through a list of gratitude, support, excitement, praise, and belonging automatically forces me to remember, however momentarily, those things. Yes, that obviously triggers some positive emotions. It also keeps the tunnel vision away. Even reading emails from months ago, I still feel the deep levels of The Feels™.

The Challenge

What became a curiosity experiment turned into one of my favorite practices. So here’s my challenge. Document both the good and bad things that happen throughout the day. Just jot down a blurb under your blooper reel or highlight reel.

  • Go over your highlight reel as often as you want. Does it put some things in perspective? Does it remind you of certain values you might have temporarily forgotten in a fit of self-doubt?
  • Go over your blooper reel once every few weeks or so. Do you still care about these same things as much as you did when they first happened? (By the way, the answer may be “yes” for some things. That’s cool too.)

In times of emotional crisis, both might help. Your highlight reel reminds you of the good things you have while your blooper reel reminds you of all the things you’ve bounced back from.

A note on the whole “don’t compare yourself to others” thing though. Ideally, we would all like to be immune to jealousy. However, forcing yourself to not do something has not traditionally been an effective tactic. Secondly, I believe awareness of what others are doing is good for getting a realistic gauge of what’s out there and what can be achieved. It can be good for motivation rather than competition. It’s not that you can’t or shouldn’t compete (Not telling you what to do; I’m not your real mom), it’s just that there’s always someone out there better than you, and you risk getting trapped in your own tunnel vision over some one thing. Anyway, you do you. Just be cognizant of what you’re doing.

Now please excuse me. I’ve got a play to live.

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