Updated: Apr 11, 2019
Self-esteem? Self-confidence? Not when I make a mistake.
I feel embarrassed, even ashamed (if others are involved). So, of course, I try to hide it, pretend I did not do it; or pretend I meant to do it; or blame it on someone or something, anyone or anything that is not me.
To further avoid those awful feelings, I immediately start telling myself why it was not my fault, over and over. The bigger the mistake the more time I have to spend rationalizing, trying to convince myself.
Yes, I did all that, everything really, except pick up my self-esteem and boost it higher than it was before.
How? You know. The problem is that it can be very difficult to even try (see the 3 steps below to make it easier).
So how? By taking a deep breath, stiffing my resolve and standing up. All the way up and 1) admitting it was me; "I made that mistake." 2) An apology, followed by 3) what I am doing/have one to make things right (or at least better).
Ducking and hiding always made me feel young and sneaky. Standing up and admitting feels strong, at least afterward, and it always makes me stronger, permanently. I also feel an increase in self- esteem and self-confidence.
But for many of us, the thought of standing up and admitting a mistake can feel too awful to even try. I know, I have been there.
What to do? 3 steps:
1. Choose someone close to you and give them this post.
2. Then, have some fun pretending different 'mistake' scenarios (based on the past?). Take turns pretending (?) to feel embarrassed, then admitting, apologizing and saying what you will do to fix it.
Have fun with it, for as many sessions as you need.
3. Out in the world, start with small mistakes, the ones that some of us act like we meant to do. If you find yourself in the middle of acting, well, admit that.
Long after each admission, you will like the way you feel. I promise.
Sadly, most of us react like Marie, when she made her worst mistake of her career.
It had taken several weeks of late nights, but she held in a smile, as she thought of her recent promotion to Marketing and how much the team would like this, her first report.
Marie entered the plush conference room and proudly began handing it out; but then she suddenly felt nervous.
As she watched her boss leaf through it, she just could not relax.
Franklin finally looked up and said, “This looks good Marie, but where is the Linderman section?”
Marie asked, “Linderman?” and felt her face flush a bright red.
Their initial meeting had been long, and near the end, Franklin had mentioned including Linderman’s area of the state.
Annabelle, senior member of the team, incredulously asked, “You didn’t include it?”
The others had their eyes on the table.
Marie’s voice was quiet, as she said, “I, I remember we, well, we talked about it, and I just, uhm, forgot.”
This last was a whisper.
She glanced up to see Franklin’s angry face and remembered how much he hated falling off schedule.
He abruptly stood and barked “Take twenty-minutes!”
The others followed him out, leaving Marie alone.
The silence was overwhelming.
“Can I help?”
Marie looked up, tears brimming.
A young man handed her a tissue and asked “What happened?”
The words came spilling out. She finished by saying, “And I feel so embarrassed, more than embarrassed.”
“Ashamed?” he asked.
“Yes, ashamed. How could I have forgotten a whole section of the report?”
“A feeling of shame is common after a big mistake.”
Marie blurted, “Who are you?”
“Dennis,” he answered. “I'm a psychologist the company brings in to support marketing. I was in the office across the hall and saw Franklin stomp out.”
She quietly said, “Marie.”
Dennis asked, “Do you know that you have never been wrong?
“Oh, come on,” she said, “This is a disaster; besides, everybody makes mistakes.”
“Of course we do, and your mistake is thinking that mistakes are wrong.”
“But I feel so awful; I mean, I let these people down.”
“Yes, you did, but our society has let you down. It has taught you to think that what you did was wrong, even bad.”
Marie gave a quick shake of her head and said, “Okay, but so what?”
“Ah, the so what is the choice you now face. You can continue to wallow in the blame and shame, or you can take responsibility and do everything possible to make it right.”
Marie looked away.
A full minute passed before she nodded to herself, turned to Dennis and said, “Thank you.”
The team began returning. Franklin entered last and sat down hard.
Still angry, he leaned forward and said, “Without Linderman we are behind schedule. Now, Annabelle, I want you to…”
Marie stood up and said, “Excuse me.”
She could feel her hands trembling and clasped them in front of her.
Forcing herself to look at her boss, she said, “I want to apologize…”
Her voice cracked. She cleared her throat and tried again.
“I apologize for my mistake, and I have a solution. We can go over the first five sections of the report today and tomorrow.”
She paused and then plunged ahead. “I will complete Linderman tonight and tomorrow night, and we can use it, along with the final two sections on the third day.”
Franklin sat back. Silent.
Slowly, he said, “Yes, ok, that could work. Are you sure you can handle it?”
She hesitated, then nodded decisively and said, “Yes; and again, my apology to you all.”
As she sat down, Marie realized that an inner glow had replaced much of the shame, and she sent Dennis a silent thank you.
Ok, What is it?
The one, positive change that will most lift your life.
You made the resolution and felt excited. But then struggled so hard to keep going.
I kept losing that struggle, even with small changes like less TV, earlier bed or a better diet.
And I really thought there was something wrong with me: for not having enough will power, too little self-discipline.
But there was nothing wrong! . . . Not with me. . . Not with you.
Free: 4 simple steps that ease and release even the strongest inner-struggle.
And that one, positive change? Will lift your life permanently.
The Power of Becoming Your Own Best Friend
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For more on building self-esteem from mistakes, here is a link from The Muse:
Use your (worst) mistakes to build self-esteem:
The very foundation of personal improvement is self-care/self-love. Waiting at this link: