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Five Good Reasons to Own Your Mistakes

A few years ago, Journalist Rachel Sklar fessed up to a mistake on her part. I admire her public apology greatly. Not only did she admit the mistake that critics called her out on, but she owned responsibility for the mistake, didn’t attempt to blame others and promised not only to make an effort to fix this mistake but also to do better in the future. And because she was so transparent in her confession and apology I am willing to take a chance on her again.

Her mistake was in overlooking diversity in a list she made when she would vociferously decry such an omission by others. I have seen quite a few of these homogeneous lists and, rather than admit their error, the list makers instead often become defensive and offer excuses, making no attempts to work harder to create a stronger, more credible list.

Here is what Ms. Sklar had to say:

It’s an omission we are fixing even as I type this, but that’s not the point: the point is taking responsibility for it and holding it up as yet another reminder of how easily groups are marginalized in our media. Even by people who loudly complain about being marginalized.

I am one of those people — and this mistake is my fault … Except that it was my job to notice — and as someone who always keeps an eagle eye for women on lists such as these, I take responsibility for not expanding that eye further.

If this were a list of just men I’d hit the roof, Twitter madly and blog angrily. So I not only understand why black listservs and blogs are blowing it up, I applaud it. I would too, and that’s part of the goal in writing this post. Things won’t change unless examples like this are held up as things that matter.

— Rachel Sklar at Mediaite: A Glaring Omission

Sklar’s post serves as a reminder that there are many good reasons why we should own up to our mistakes. Here are five of my favorites:

1. Get a job or a promotion
Owning up to your mistakes is Good Business 101. Thinking that your failings and missteps will not be noticed or will silently be forgiven only diminishes your talent and successes. Leaders admit their mistakes quickly and then share what they’ve learned and how they will move forward. Most importantly, they then take the actions they say they will and demonstrate their improvement.

2. Learn how to bounce back
It is also a good life skill to learn how to own your mistakes. You cannot learn from them if you are too busy trying to hide from or deny them. It is impossible to live a mistake-free life. It is also hard to learn how to stand up on our own two feet if we never risk falling down. One of the greatest benefits then from owning up to and learning from our mistakes is that we learn strength and resilience.

3. Defensiveness is not cute
To be stretched and grown by bouncing back from mistakes allows us to be taken more seriously by others as claims of perfection are pretty much unbelievable from any mere mortal. Also, attempting to shift the blame to other people is not the most honorable course of action. It makes you look weak and dishonest. Realizing that we are fallible humans makes us more attractive humans.

4. Become a better student of life
When we don’t try to cover up our boo-boos we gain valuable perspective that makes it possible to keep our eyes open for life’s lessons. Plus, we learn how to do things better the next time around. From actions tiny to tremendous, there are many for which life presents opportunities for a do-over.

5. Create change
Don’t let your ego prevent you from recognizing your mistakes. You know when you’ve done something badly or screwed up; if you don’t make an effort to own it and correct it, it will likely stick in the back of your mind for a long time. That’s not to say that admitting and correcting your mistake is an instant cure-all, but the freedom that comes from taking responsibility is, I believe, a crucial key to growth, happiness and the ability to move forward.

Admitting a mistake and dealing with the consequences can be embarrassing and possibly painful. You might (rightly in some cases) be concerned about possible repercussions. And your desire to come clean can potentially hurt people you care about, making the decision to confess your sins not always clearly the best choice. But I think in many, if not most, instances you’ll be glad you did, and those around you will appreciate your decision to do so.

Do you admit your mistakes? Do you ultimately feel better if you do, or do you find it better not to talk about them and simply move forward? How do you feel when someone confesses to you that she screwed up?

BlogHer is the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online.

by Maria Niles

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