Almost daily I tell folks in my workshops and discussions that it’s okay to make mistakes.
When we talk about topics like race, gender, sexuality and other social categories, it’s common for people to hesitate to say something because it might come out wrong or open them up to an attack.
We are all afraid of appearing ignorant and ill intentioned, not to mention being considered racist, sexist or homophobic.
So I encourage embracing mistakes. And I ask folks to let me know – in real time or privately after the fact – if I say something that doesn’t land right with them. If I can’t stand to feel the sting of being wrong then how can I ask anyone else to?
And it does sting, make no mistake. I suffer from the same desire to be perfect at all times the same way many of you do. (Imposter syndrome has to wait for another post or I’m going to get off topic.)
I genuinely appreciate the feedback I get because I have come to see it as an act of trust. You have to trust in my open-hearted listening in order to risk telling me that something I said or did came off as wrong or bigoted in some way. You have to trust my reaction will not be to attack or deny your experience.
I believe if you are “someone who gets it” you have to be willing to take it when you don’t. Apologize, learn, do better.
Because I have been practicing this in the DEI arena for a long time the sting is familiar and I can cope.
However, when I make a mistake in another arena, feelings of disaster & panic compete with my instinct to hide and obfuscate. Run! Hide! Deny! Fix it!!!!
But eventually I can get back to the place where I can own the mistake, apologize, learn and move on. And be reminded once again I’m not perfect (ack!!), and that’s ok. Ish.
Having patience and acceptance with the foibles, flaws and “areas for growth” with my clients has become second nature.
Patience and acceptance for myself and my errors and flaws is, as they say, a work in progress.
So I messed something up. The reasons matter less than what I do about it now.
Deep breathe, suck it up, apologize and hope for grace from those I hurt or offend.
On another note:
I started to name this post “My Bad”, a phrase I have been using for 30 years since I picked it up from high school friends. But the other day, during a discussion about white privilege, a woman said she gets cautious around white people who use phrases like “my bad” and “girlfriend” when they talk to black people.
Ouch. Another lesson learned.
And just so you know, Mea Culpa auto corrects to the very fitting “New Culpable”.