Embracing Mistakes and Self-Accountability on the Path to Authentic Growth
I've always taken pride in being right. There's a certain determination and cleverness to it that led me straight to the debating club during my high school years. Yes, I was an active member of the debating club — my little-nerdy secret. I rocked at it. I have a knack for presenting a strong argument, even if I'm not entirely certain or don't fully believe in the viewpoint I'm defending (a textbook Gemini trait).
Our formative years are marked by the influence of those around us. We tend to mirror the behaviours and attitudes we observe in our caregivers and environment. So it's really no wonder I turned out to be such a know-it-all. Through social conditioning, we often face strong pressures to avoid mistakes and failures, and in many cases, we're shamed when they do occur. These societal norms can be detrimental, not only in terms of cultivating relationships with open communication, but also to our personal well-being.
Admitting that I've messed up or that I got something wrong has never come naturally to me. I was never particularly good at being a gracious loser, nor was I taught to be. However, when you're a small business owner, you can't simply hide from your mistakes and evade accountability, especially when you're a solopreneur with no one else to blame.
Embracing My Mistakes as a Coach
As a trauma-informed integrative coach, my work centres on establishing a safe, compassionate, and non-judgmental space for individuals to explore themselves, what they're experiencing and how to get from where they are to where they'd like to be. My coaching approach encourages a safe exploration of limiting core beliefs that turn into restrictive/intrusive thoughts, allowing them to be examined from new perspectives and allowing individuals to move forward while considering the needs, desires, and concerns of all parts of themselves, whether visible or hidden. Remarkably, working within this space has also brought some of my own blind spots to light, notably my unfamiliarity with fully owning up to my blunders ...
Recently, I found myself in a situation where a client's hesitancy to embrace my usual coaching approach resulted in a noticeable disconnect between us during a session. I found it challenging not to take this personally. Instead of adjusting my approach to better understand, I unintentionally came across as somewhat combative, only further amplifying the disconnect. In the moment, my insecurities clouded my ability to effectively engage with this client and comprehend their unique needs. It took me some time to acknowledge this, which I deeply regret. Eventually though, with guidance from my regular supervision sessions — a crucial practice for upholding the highest coaching standards — I was able to recognise that this was an area where I needed to grow, and sometimes, growth involves taking a good hard look in the mirror … and offering a sincere apology without the expectation of anything in return.
The Perfectionism Trap
This is a deeply personal share, one that, to be honest, I find quite embarrassing and even somewhat shameful. This situation was uncharacteristic for me, as I tend to be somewhat of a perfectionist and hold myself to a very high standard in my work. However, I've learned that perfectionism doesn't actually equal success. Despite what we might believe, perfectionism can actually impede our natural growth, generate resistance to what has the potential to succeed, and blind us to what isn't working. This can lead to a feeling of being stuck, stagnant or blocked.
I've had to embrace the notion that getting it wrong is not only inevitable but also an opportunity to uncover new, uncharted, and more suitable paths toward personal growth, success, improved communication, and, perhaps most importantly, fostering safety and trust in our connections.
Liberation in Owning Up
I'm owning up to this mistake, not to highlight my shortcomings as a coach (and my hope is that this isn't the message you take away), but to convey a simple truth: I'm human, and like everyone, I don't always get things right; sometimes, I might even get it really wrong, both in my personal life and in my professional practice. However, instead of avoiding the inevitability of these mistakes, concealing them, or pretending they don't happen, I'm embracing the opportunity to graciously admit when I'm wrong and use it as a chance to learn, grow and actually connect with others more authentically. I also want to take this opportunity to share a recent testimonial from one of my clients, Grace. This is not just to balance the scales (though it largely is ), but to underscore that whilst I'm a coach who's learning to take responsibility for my mistakes, I'm more often a coach who genuinely seeks to truly listen and strives to deeply understand.
"Tanya is the least judgmental person I've ever spoken to, and she understands that we're all human. In other words, if you say something that may sound irrational or entitled, she understands that they are human thoughts and she'll help you get through them. Instead of trying to make you think differently, she helps you understand your own thoughts and feelings and why they're there and realize they're not always malicious, but protection from pain or trauma that might have happened in the past, and fear that it'll happen again."
Ready to embrace change and discover your path to transformation?
At some point in our lives, we all face a choice — in our professional endeavours, personal experiences, and within every relationship. We can either evade our mistakes and failures, burdening ourselves to avoid responsibility, or we can step up and say, 'I might be wrong on this,' loosening the resistance to our own biases and allowing ourselves to move forward with humility, curiosity and a commitment to sustainable growth. In the process of radically owning up to my mistakes and breaking free from the patterns of avoidance I inherited through my upbringing and environment, something unexpected has arisen:
It feels ... liberating.
I mean, seriously liberating.
Why didn't anyone share this wisdom with me sooner? Why didn't anyone guide me on the transformative power of honesty and accountability? The relief from guilt, the end of endless overthinking, the release of stress, and the CLARITY that accompanies it — the clarity of knowing with certainty how to move forward.
While my debating club days are long retired, I must admit I'm still someone who holds strong opinions and beliefs. However, the difference now lies in how I've learned to embrace non-avoidance, self-accountability, and embodied curiosity in the face of tension, conflict, and the inevitable mistakes I'm destined to make in both my personal and professional relationships.
As I reflect on this self-accountability journey and the transformative power of owning up to my own gracefully, I've discovered a unique kind of freedom and peace of mind. And I can wholeheartedly say, give it a go for yourself, if you aren't doing so already. Allow it to surprise and move you (I mean really move you). I guarantee it'll bring you closer to people, rather than keeping you apart.