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”.

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I don’t know about you but I seem to have an almost magical ability to catalog every moment in my life where I fell short.

All those times I was “too much” –  too loud, too enthusiastic, too big, too flashy, too standoffish, too serious, too jokey.

And of course all the times I was “not enough” – not smart enough, rich enough, pretty enough or thin enough. Or plain old just “not good enough”, what ever the hell that means.

I consider this Too Much/NotEnough habit a special subset of the occassional 3 am litany of every wrong I have ever done to another person starting from grade 2 through yesterday.

That’s a different blog post.

The Too Much/NotEnough habit snaps to the front of my mind whenever I accidentally grab the wrong mental yardstick. I have several I reach for out of habit.

The first one was a gift from my mother – “Some people don’t have any legs”. Designed to remind her children that someone else always has it worse, this phrase was deployed to silence complaints big and small, from a skinned knee to a lost job. No whining, suck it up.

I agree that remembering that others have it worse is a valuable exercise to remind us to be grateful for what we have. Sometimes. But not all the time.

Comparison done right can remind you of what’s important. It can refocus gratitude and build resilience. It can even motivate us in a healthy way to get back up, try harder, or emulate those we admire.

But the wrong yard stick leads to dissatisfaction at best, and misery at worst.

My second yard stick is of the “Someone announced a new job/ promotion on Linked-In” variety. My dad always had those “gimme” yard sticks with hardware store names on them, so I picture this one with FOMO written in big red block letters.

That “too much/not enough” refrain starts playing to the tune of “should”, as in ‘I should be at that point in my career!’, ‘I should have that title by now!’, and ‘I should work harder!’ This particular measure highlights what’s missing like the tick marks on the door jamb that showing you are always shorter than your older sister.

The last stick in my mental tool box is the (unreali) stick. Not sure that worked but anyway…

This is where I compare myself to someone famous like like Brené Brown and discover …

“I am a FAILURE!!! We are the same age! Look at all she has accomplished! The books she has written! The people she helps! How brave she is! I never even got the PhD! Why would anyone want to work with me when they can just go hire Cook-Ross or Brené Brown? I should just quit!”

Once I peel that cudgel out of my hand and take a breath, I remember that comparison can also be a “Carrot” as in…

“Wow. Brené Brown’s success proves folks are willing to engage in change and transformation on a personal, vulnerable level. That is so cool. That means I can do DEI workshops and coaching from that same personal, vulnerable place.”

Now before anyone takes offense, know that I do not think I have Brené Brown’s chops, I am not a professor or an LISW, nor do I do the kind of leadership training she does. This isn’t really about Brené, although I do think she’s amazing.

What this is all about is the frequency with which I forget that we can choose how we measure ourselves.

Nobody makes me compare myself to Brené Brown, or a successful colleague, or a person struggling to make ends meet. That’s all straight from my tricky little mind.

Most days, when I beat back the “shoulds” and “too much/not enough” monsters, I work on replacing the carrot & stick with a clear picture of my personal best. Where I am today, how I got here and where I want to go.

So if I compare me today to with me five years ago, I can really appreciate what I’ve learned and how much my skills have improved. I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished and still focus on where I want to go next.

As I expand my consulting and coaching I am keeping this idea of personal best front and center because I want to work with folks interested in meaningful, sustainable change, achieved through self-knowledge and vulnerability.

I know where I want to go,  how I want to get there, and how I will measure success.

And I’m sure hoping you want to come along.

Onward and upward!

I wish I had a truth mirror. I would hold it up in front of my clients so they could magically see what others see.

One of my biggest frustrations with my (usually women) clients is their inability to recognize and own their unique talents, abilities, skills and knowledge. I witness time and again the automatic downgrading of skills because if its easy for them then it must not be that hard, right?

Some of this is modesty and style, some of it is living in a culture that treats women who own their accomplishments as “pushy” and “braggy.” And I think a massive chunk is related to the fact that we spend so, so much time reflecting on what is wrong with us that we never get around to what is right.

Ask someone to list all the ways they need to improve, and the list is long.

Ask someone to list all the ways they excel and often its … crickets.

We do this in our personal lives when we name bits and pieces we like (“I have good hair and pretty hands”), but don’t find much to recommend about the whole package. I’m guilty of this one myself, see above hair and hands.

It’s hard to listen to people underrate and diminish their skills, especially skills that I don’t have and couldn’t begin to master. BUT its totally satisfying to witness them finally understanding and owning their value.

The frustration I struggle with every time is that I want them to get there more quickly. I know I can’t hurry anyone’s learning, and the magic truth mirror only works if you are ready look in it, but a girl can dream.

“Mirror, Mirror in my hand,

Who’s got the maddest skills in the land?”

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I had an interesting conversation with my husband last night and discovered I am as finicky as a cat with a bowl of discount food.

I was explaining how I was having a hard time believing folks when they told me I was good at certain things. He said “Well you’ve been that way for the last twenty years.” I told him that since I had not mastered some of the skills, it would be presumptuous of me to say I was “good at something”. Continue reading

A glaring error in Frank Capra’s magnificent “box office flop” is that George Bailey’s crisis of self-doubt happens at 8pm. No self-respecting, self-flagellating student of doubt does good work before 3 am. Thats why Clarence earns his wings, George is a light weight, he wasn’t really trying.

3:30 am spins that roulette wheel of my mind and I land on a “Shouda” as in I should of done something differently. The “what” I shouda done is variable, but the ability to collapse success into failure, thats a constant, which means its Clarence-proof. Can’t win if you don’t play!

Disappointment, frustration and shame are some of the other 38 pockets of opportunity on the George Baily pell-mell trip through pessimism and self-doubt. And let us not forget worry, agitation, annoyance, distress and regret.

It just occurred to me that I could make a proto-type of this game. George Bailey must be part of the public domain by now. It could be a drinking game where you do a shot every time your number comes up, or maybe a teaching game for children on Good Friday or Yom Kippur.

[A tangent – One of the more bizarre and effortful moments I’ve had in my life was once trying to revive a party after a junior minister who was a +1 at the party asked the crowd what they thought the difference was between shame and regret.]

3:30 will arrive again tonight with its siren call. Again the decision will have to be made. Stay in bed with my eyes closed and play George Bailey Roulette? Or get up and make a cup of tea while I play George Bailey Roulette?

All this said, in the light of day, there is nothing actually wrong with my life. I could use a little more sleep though.