It’s ok to fuck up (and what to do when you do)
“When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude towards it; you can either accept it or resent it” ~ Epictetus (Greek philosopher)
We all screw up or get things wrong sometimes. From teeny little mistakes to gargantuan fuck-ups of epic proportions - we’ve all been there. Show me a perfect person and I’ll show you a big fat fibber. Whether you’ve opened your gob and hurt a friend, upset your partner, yelled at your kids, messed up at work, or made a complete tit out of yourself at the family Christmas party after quaffing a bottle of red - you’re only human. You’re not the first person to fuck up, and you won’t be the last.
I’ve messed up many a time before - some things I’m over, other things I still regret. Looking back to my childhood days, my teens, my twenties - I’ve hurt friends and let good friendships fall by the wayside. I’ve messed up opportunities, got fired from jobs I needed to keep me going through college, cheated on boyfriends, upset family members, acted inappropriately, and had random outbursts of road rage.
Even now, I put my foot in it, I laugh at inappropriate moments, I embarrass my kids, and I can be short tempered and sharp tongued (mainly when I’m hungry). I was also (not that long ago) very close to whacking an innocent man round the back of the head with a cucumber in the supermarket because he was walking too slowly in front of me and wouldn’t get out of my way. Not proud.
I’ve dropped a bollock plenty of times on the work front - back in my consultancy days I actually fired the wrong person on behalf of one of my clients (they were both called Daniel - easily done!) On another occasion I was on the receiving end of a load of grief from someone on the phone, and as my colleague was sending me sympathetic looks I pinged her an email telling her what an utter cock-end the guy on the phone was being, only to send the email to him! #cringe
I regularly feel like I fuck up as a parent. I know I’m a good mum, and I have healthy, happy, balanced, well rounded kids, but you know how tough us mums are on ourselves (we’re our own worst critics). I’ve forgotten my kids friends parties, sent them to school in their uniform on non school uniform day, missed assemblies when they were getting an award, and I bang my four year old’s head on the car door nearly every time I put him in his car seat.
Some days I can move mountains, some days I literally wonder how I’m alive. In the end I’m only human so I give myself permission to fail sometimes, and forgive myself when I drop the ball or totally fuck up.
Today may have been a shit day, but the future is still full of promise!
So what should you do when you screw up? Complain? Blame someone else? Throw a paddy? Hide? Beat yourself up? Hit the vodka? Give up on life?
Don’t take the victim approach or point the finger if you know it’s your bad, and don’t pretend it hasn’t happened or try to brush it under the carpet either - that won’t do anyone any good. Don’t wait for someone else to notice your mistake or call you out - have some balls, own up, and own it. Be accountable, and take responsibility. Yes your kids might have pushed you over the freakin’ edge (again), but ultimately you are responsible for how you react. Your colleague/boss/client may have contributed to the failure of a project by not playing their part, but take responsibility for the part that you were responsible for. True, the mum at school may have bad breath or a prize worthy monobrow, but you now know that announcing it via the school WhatsApp group after 6 glasses of Malbec on an empty stomach is probably not the way to go.
KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
Ok so it can be difficult to maintain a sense of perspective when you’re embarrassed, ashamed, panic stricken or guilt ridden. You’ve just accused your husband’s uncle of being a pervert because you’ve drank too much gin; you’ve made your kid cry until he stopped breathing and turned blue because you banned Fortnite for a month; you’ve upset your friend by admitting you think her new boyfriend is a colossal bell-end; or you’ve missed a deadline and lost your best client. Shit. Time to step back for a minute, breathe, and take a reality check. How bad is it? Is it fixable? Did someone die? Get some perspective - it could always be worse (you could be Melania Trump). Making a boo-boo at work is unlikely to cause a life or death situation (unless you’re a surgeon or a pilot); throwing the Disney CD out of the car window on the M1 is unlikely to put your kids in therapy in their twenties (I hope); and hopefully your sister will forgive you for losing one of her Jimmy Choo’s on a drunken mums night out (where let’s be honest, anything can fucking happen). There are few mistakes that really can’t be put right (even if you have to eat a fuck load of humble pie with a side portion of ‘I wanna die right now’).
COMMUNICATE AND APOLOGISE
Firstly decide that you are going to respond in a positive way. The level of apology (and the amount of grovelling that’s going to be required) depends on the level of fuck up. If you’ve disappointed your kids, let them down or upset them in some way, it’s good to apologise and show them that you're human, that you're not perfect, and you make mistakes (this gives them room to make mistakes too). On the other hand, if you’ve deeply hurt a friend, a quick ‘oops, my bad’ via Messenger may not cut it. At work or in business, don't over do it or throw yourself on your sword - you don’t want to over dramatise things and make it look like your mistake is actually worse than it is, so try and make sure your apology is proportional to the mistake you’ve made.
GIVE THINGS TIME
Depending on your fuck up - you may not be able to fix it immediately. It might take time to win back a client or regain your boss's trust; it may be a while before your husband lets you drive his car again after you’ve curbed his alloys; or it may take time for someone to recover from something you’ve said or done. Don’t rush it. Sometimes time is the only thing that will help. If you’ve ruined your child's life by cutting their sandwiches into squares instead of triangles, know that they will recover. One day.
LEARN FROM IT
No matter how bad your mistake, see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Try and understand why it happened so you can do your best not to repeat it. Perhaps you’ll identify some triggers and know what you need to avoid, or work on (i.e. don’t drink at the office party if you’re likely to snog your boss or tell Derek from Transport what an absolute Dickass he is). Create a plan so whatever it is you’ve done, doesn’t happen again - learn to pause before you hit send on an email or publish a facebook post; don’t drink sherry at the next family party; don’t let your kids get their hands on the sodding glitter glue… you catch my drift.
GET BACK ON THE HORSE
When you’ve botched up or upset someone, it can be tempting to hide away. If you’ve held your hands up, apologised, done whatever was needed to rectify things - then hold your head up and carry on. Go and meet that client for a coffee and show him your human side; walk back into the office; show your face at the school gates. It might be cringeworthy at first, but sometimes biting the bullet and getting back on the horse is the hardest, yet most important thing to do.
LET IT GO
(Are you singing Frozen right now?) Let the small things go - the world won’t stop spinning if you miss your kids assembly or forget to send that email, and if you fuck up big style (like firing the wrong person or calling someone a cock-end via email whilst you’re on the phone with them), just hold your hands up, be honest, and apologise - what more can you do? What’s the worst that can happen? Letting go and releasing it (once you’ve rectified it and the dust has settled) is so important, as holding on to mistakes and dwelling on things will eat you up, erode your confidence, and start a cycle of negativity (I always fuck up, I’m no good at X, Y or Z, I’m such a loser). Don’t beat yourself up too much or continue to berate yourself. People have done much worse. You’re not the first person in the world to fuck up and you certainly won’t be the last. Everyone makes mistakes - at home, in relationships, at work… it doesn’t make you a bad person, it just means you’re human. You have to forgive yourself in order to move on and be happy. The embarrassment, pain or guilt will soon fade, and whatever it is you’ve done will soon become a distant memory. Move on, tomorrow is another day and it’s a new chance to start over.
DON’T LET IT STOP YOU TAKING CHANCES IN FUTURE
Don’t let your past mistakes stop you from moving forwards, experiencing new things, or taking chances that could lead to great and wondrous things! As Dale Carnegie once said “Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes the furthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.”
“I never make the same mistake twice. I make it like, five or six times, you know, just to be sure.”
I hope you enjoyed this post, and I hope it reminds you to be kind to yourself next time you fluff up.
Have you got any examples of how you’ve screwed up, and what you did to fix things? Or perhaps you have an embarrassing faux pas you’re willing to share?
Much love, Fran xxx
ABOUT FRAN GRANT
Wife to a very lucky husband. Mum to 3 beautiful little boys. Gym, yoga and self care enthusiast. Lover of food, coffee, wine and gin. Self confessed bookworm and book hoarder. Advocate for keeping the magic of reading alive for today’s children. And last but not least - Writer (currently trying my hand at kids fiction and rhyming stories). Thanks for visiting my site - expect to see posts mainly related to reading and writing, with occasional musings about family, parenting and life in general. Oh, and plenty of book reviews! Hope you enjoy! Much love, Fran x