Like most people, I hate making mistakes. If I had my way, I’d float through life on a cloud of perfection. Unfortunately, perfection is not possible so mistakes are inevitable. The good news is, we can decide how we react to making a mistake. We can shame ourselves into a spiral of doubt and frustration or we can choose a more positive path. I was faced with this choice recently when I made a big mistake at work. In case you don’t know, in addition to being a blogger and boutique owner, I’m also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I see clients for therapy and I do home studies for adoptions.
It was in the field of adoption that I recently made a big mistake. I completely failed to obtain a document needed to complete someone’s home study. I was in charge of ensuring they had all the necessary paperwork and I failed. All my checking and double checking and I STILL missed something. In my defense, this document was a special requirement for this particular case. It was beyond what I normally have to acquire but still, I should’ve caught it. Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me to consider this document until I got an email asking where it was.
It stings to even write this right now.
I take a lot of pride in my work and I believe I’m really good at my job but it’s easy for self doubt to creep in when I make a mistake. If you struggle after making a mistake, I present to you…
How to bounce back after making a mistake
- Own It. Yep, you have to own up to the mistake. This part is hard. Who wants to be wrong? Or thought of as incompetent or neglectful or (Insert whatever negative thought you’ve had in the past after making a mistake)? Owning up to it is the only way to start the process of bouncing back from it. That is, unless you truly had zero involvement in the issue – that’s a different story. Right now we’re talking about mistakes we know we’ve made. Own it. And own it quick. In my case, I emailed back immediately and admitted I failed to get the proper documentation.
- Apologize. You’ve recognized what you’ve done by owning it so now you have to say you are sorry and mean it. Meaning it is important. If you apologize by saying, “Sorry, but (insert whatever excuse you’ve used in the past)” that’s not going to cut it. Apologies aren’t excuses. Say you are sorry. In my case, I apologized immediately after recognizing I was at fault for the absence of the document.
- Fix it. Do everything in your power to make it right. Some mistakes are big and some are small. Some can be fixed rather easily and some require a mountain of work if they even can be fixed at all. Luckily, I encountered an easily fixable mistake. I was able to push the form for the document through right after I owned the mistake and apologized for it.
- Let it go. I understand you’re going feel bad about making mistakes. In my scenario, I felt terrible and I could have easily let myself free fall into the abyss of self doubt and shame but that wouldn’t have helped anyone. I took a minute to wallow and then I reminded myself that I am human. I make mistakes. Even with my best of intentions, mistakes are going to happen. How I respond to the mistakes and how I work towards correcting them is what is important. Let yourself feel the emotion of making the mistake then give yourself grace because after all, you are only human too so let it go. No really, you can let it go now.
- Do better next time. Learn from your mistakes. I now know what I need to do to ensure what happened doesn’t happen again. In a weird way, this mistake is going to make me better at my job in the long run. When we know better, we do better.
All this may seem like common sense to some but there was a time in my life that I would’ve worried over the mistake for a week. I would’ve worried that I seemed stupid, incompetent, silly or whatever other negative word you can think of. I would’ve worried that I would never get another job again and this would prove that I wasn’t cut out for this line of work. Now, I bounce back with relative ease. You can too. Own it, apologize, fix it, let it go and do better next time. You got this!