Sep 12, 2022 in Life Coaching

Making Mistakes

What do you do when you make a mistake? Do you lie? Do you own it? Can you learn from it?

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Making Mistakes


How do you feel when you make a mistake? Do you feel ashamed or diminished in some way? Do you own it? It can be hard the first time you own up to your own behavior. In my career, working with emotionally disturbed people, I have had to model making mistakes and facing the consequences. Depending on the client’s intellectual capability, I “make” minor mistakes or on purposes. Let me give you an example: I misspelled a word on the blackboard and said “Oops! I spelled it wrong.” I erased the word and then wrote it out correctly. I DID NOT act out-there was no yelling or screaming and I did not throw a tantrum. One more example: At a place I was working one of the teachers asked me to write an email about a child. She told me to use the person’s first name and last initial. It didn’t seem right to me to use their name, but she assured me it was okay, she proofed it and then I sent it. As I was going to lunch later, the office secretary called me into the office. In there were two administrators, one of them asked to speak to me. We went into the conference room, and she asked me if I wrote the email. I was thinking “Oh crap! I knew that wasn’t right.” I swallowed hard and said “Yes.” I did not give an explanation, I just owned it because even though I was encouraged to write it in the manner that I did, it was my responsibility. The reason that what I did was important is, that if the email had got out, someone “might” be able to identify the child. So, it was a potential breach of confidentiality. I assured the Admin. that I now knew what I did was wrong and that I would never do it again. She stood there just looking at me. You see, she had expected me to lie and cover myself. She finally said I could go to lunch, and I was expected back at my usual time.

What is it about us humans that makes it difficult to accept that sometimes we are wrong? Why do we want to lie or get mad if our errors are discovered by someone else? My telling the truth about my error could have sacked my career, instead because I owned it, I became known by the people who knew, as someone who was trustworthy and honest. It made my reputation. They could have fired me, but they did not.

I have seen both children and adults throw absolute, knock down-drag out tantrums when they make mistakes. It is about ego, plain and simple. We want to be right and perfect. Maybe people freak out when they make a mistake because it means they are not perfect. I say, “Welcome to the human race!”

We were not born to be perfect; we were born to learn, grow and evolve and the only way to do that is to…wait for it…MAKE MISTAKES. I used to let my kids have natural consequences whenever it was not harmful. I did not argue with them about wearing a coat outside, even if it was cold. I would tell them to wear it because it was cold and If they refused and went out coatless, nine times out of ten they would sheepishly come in and grab their coats. I did not say a word about it.

Even the Bible says, forgive your mistakes (sins, transgressions, trespasses) as you forgive others. It does not say just forgive others, but forgive yourself, as well. Everyone on this planet has made a mistake at one time or another. It is okay to do so. What happens next is what is crucial, do we own it? Learn from it? Lie?


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