There’s nothing worse than that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know you’ve messed up. You’ve done something wrong, and it’s gonna have consequences. How much trouble will you be in? Will people laugh at you? You’re terribly nervous and anxious about what’s going to happen next!
But mistakes and failures, both big and small, can lead to another one of the worst feelings in the world: Shame.
Shame is a very powerful and deeply destructive emotion. Letting it linger around too long can lead to loss of self-esteem, leaving us feeling flawed and inadequate. But thankfully, there’s a simple way to alleviate the shame caused by failure:
Admit your mistakes!
Really! This act alone takes the shame out of our failures. And once that shame is gone, our mistakes can lead to true growth. They can even be a positive thing! Rarely have successful people “made it” without failing several times over. What’s important is that they acknowledge their mistakes, examine them, and learn from them. They confide in people about their failures, and then they persevere.
What? Did you think I was going to say you should hide your mistakes? Like your daughter might try to do when she first learns to drive and “taps” your car pulling out of the driveway? (Not that I’ve done that or anything.) Yeah right! It’s always better to get your mistakes out in the open!
But fear of failure should never stop us from acting. We need to teach our girls to be bold and to take chances. We can show them that they’ll survive their mistakes – that looking stupid or silly in front of others is the least of their worries! They’ll gain strength just from knowing this, and also knowing that they have our support.
It’s easy enough to tell your girl that if her peers laugh at her she’ll be okay and that life will go on. But how do we truly teach her that? How do we make her feel comfortable making mistakes and taking risks? Again, same answer.
We admit our mistakes.
We should point out to our girls when we fail or fall short, and admit when we screw up. This way they can see that everyone makes mistakes and that they’ll survive. If we can show them by our example, they’ll more readily believe it!
Because we do want our girls to pursue their dreams, to explore their unique talents, and to go against the flow. To go big or go home! And that necessarily means they’ll experience some failures along the way. Sure, the mainstream kids might laugh or roll their eyes at them, but who cares?! We’ll be there for them. Like they say, it’s the tree that survives the harsh winter that grows the strongest.
The feeling of taking a risk is like a roller coaster ride. That fear that accompanies it goes up and down inside of us while we’re uncertain of the outcome, but we can ride out that feeling. And the anxiety that arises later while we wait to see if our bravery will be rewarded with success or failure? We can ride that out too, all the while knowing that we’ll be okay, because that roller coaster will come back down and the ride will eventually end.
And if that ride does end in failure, and that nauseating feeling sticks around? The surefire way to alleviate it is (again!) to admit our mistakes to others. Almost like magic, that feeling will go away. It’s like an anti-nausea pill, or like yelling at that guy working the roller coaster to stop the dang ride already! Here’s how it works:
Say you’ve messed up. Or had a big part in some failure. You’re feeling pretty nervous and terrible about it. Your thoughts include the following: Gosh, what are people thinking about me?! Are they super mad? Should I go hide in the closet? (Spoiler: the answer is no!)
Step up and maturely admit your mistakes to others. Explain your role in that failure to those who might be angry with you. I guarantee you that almost instantly their shoulders will go down (perhaps even literally). Not only will you feel relieved and lighter, they too will feel a sense of relief… and much less like they’re backed up against a wall.
When you confide your mistakes in someone, they feel appreciated, empathetic, and open to a “real” discussion with you. Hey, they may even say “I’m sorry” in return and admit their contribution to the screwed-up situation too. It’s cathartic. And it promotes growth.
It works the same for our girls. From us, they can learn to acknowledge and admit their mistakes in order to take the sting out of them. This way, they’ll learn from failure instead of dwelling on it. They’ll be able to gain strength from their mistakes and move on in the direction of success.