March 18, 2021

How to get rid of Guilt when we F*ck Up.

*Warning: f-bombs dropped below! 


Failing is, like, so hot right now.

We’ve all heard the concept of failing is really popular, and to be honest, I am so glad it is! It’s about time we started looking at our mistakes as opportunities to expand. After all, you can’t know what you don’t know.

And, sometimes, making a mess is how you learn something new. Get out of the headspace that making a mistake makes you “bad” and put yourself in the space that mistakes make you human.

That ugh feeling.

I don’t know about you, but when I fuck up, I get this really yucky feeling in my stomach. I feel guilty, and my mind starts racing, replaying what happened and didn’t happen in my head.

When that starts, I have several choices: 

>> I can pretend that nothing happened—hope and pray I’m not found out—or blame my roommate’s broken art on the cat. 

>> I can avoid blame and twist it around to somehow convince myself that I’m not a fault or I am a victim. 

>> I can accept the mistake and go to shame town—shut down and feel sorry for myself (pity party for one, please). 

>> Or, I can be honest and vulnerable and go to the person (or persons) involved and admit I messed up.

Now which one of those sounds the least scary to you? Which one do you normally choose? And as Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?”

There’s really only one option.

Here’s why I choose the vulnerability route: it’s the only one that maintains a connection with you and the other person. The other options repress or cut off the connection between you and the other person—or yourself.

You can do the other ones, but that’s how you push out the good stuff. And when you make a mistake is exactly when you still need to hold space for the good stuff.

I’ve also learned that many times, what we’ve built up in our head to be this huge life-altering mistake, is in reality, no big deal to the other person. In fact, surprise, surprise, most people are only thinking about themselves and might have not even noticed that your tone in that email was harsh or that you forgot about that project you were supposed to be working on. (sorry, Kortney!)

Just be a grown-up about it already.

One of my favorite things I learned while working as a manager for Lululemon was the concept of “by-whens.” This means: we all have deadlines and commitments we make, and sometimes, life happens (or ADHD happens), and we can’t make that commitment.

Instead of just flying under the radar, finishing that thing late, and hoping they don’t notice, you walk right up to that person, and you: 

1. Acknowledge that you didn’t meet the deadline.

2. State what your new commitment is.

3. Plan to keep you accountable. 

I love this because it’s both simple and shame-free! You don’t have to go into some elaborate fable/sob story about how or why you didn’t get it done; you just say what you’re committed to. That shows the person that not only are you a grown-up, but it also shows that you care and that you take the commitment seriously. What manager can argue with that? Okay, most managers would not argue with that.

I promise you that it’s much better than putting the manager in a position to have to hound you about when you’re going to finish something. As a manager, I can tell you that there is nothing better than an employee who manages themself. It creates the space to make mistakes while maintaining trust.

One of the trainers I work with, who I love dearly, recently had a survey come back after a training. It had some less-than-flattering comments. Before I could even write my “what happened here, buddy?” email, he had already emailed me about it. He read the feedback, took it to heart, and had created a plan of how to implement it.

That not only saved me from having to write an uncomfortable email, but it also made me feel confident in this trainer’s ability to manage himself. Instead of feeling upset about the survey, I felt proud of how he made it into a positive learning experience. Any worry I might have had magically disappeared.

Trust me; you want to be the person your manager worries/stresses about the least.

Make a plan, and then forget that plan.

So now, let’s dive in for a minute to talk about making your “make it right” plan. First, gather up all the ideas, knowledge, and experience you have, maybe even ask a friend or a colleague for their perspective. Next, you hold space for the chance that your plan might be totally off base and not at all helpful.

In other words, be flexible and open to other ideas. The important part is that you try, and, hopefully, they’ll see that you are making an effort.

Now, if it’s the case that someone is really upset with you, presenting a plan might not be the best idea right off the bat. Instead, communicate that you’ve made a mistake, that you want to make it right, and that you’ve come up with some ideas that you’d like to share with them when they have the time and emotional space to do so.

The good stuff is all yours to keep.

This can be a challenging part because we can’t control other people, and there is the possibility that it might take the person a long time before they are ready—if ever. The important part is that you try to keep the connection open. You can’t force it.

And, if you never hear from that person, that doesn’t mean that all this work was for nothing. Keep what is valuable and is yours, which is the lesson! You don’t have to apply what you learned to your past or current fuck up. I promise you, the universe will send you a brand-new person or situation to test your newfound learnings on. It’s called karma, baby!

So to recap, if you fuck up, it’s not the end of the world—everyone fucks up. It’s what you do afterward that matters.

You always have the choice to make it right and turn it into something good.

It’s all up to you, my friends!

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