It’s going to happen. You’re going to screw up somehow. You’re going to be well-intentioned but distracted or think you’re making the right choice and realize later that you were way off base. Whether it’s an expensive marketing blunder or double booking clients, you may have a momentary, strong desire to retreat back to an agency. Your inner critic may say something like, “See, I told you you’re not up to this!” Slow your roll. Let’s talk about it.

Simplify your organizational systems. I had 3 different calendars at once that were supposed to be syncing with each other but weren’t. Plus my other systems. It was a nightmare and I’m pretty organized. Find an all-in-one system if you can. My favorite is the practice management system, Simple Practice.

Figure out what went wrong. It’s easy to bury your head in the sand when you’re feeling shame, but it’s not going to prevent it from happening again. If it was a systems issue, shore up your systems. Have a clear, consistent process that you and your clients go through. If you invested money in an ineffective marketing strategy, examine why it didn’t work for you; were you listening to the advice of a trusted mentor (preferably one within the field since ours has special rules and laws)? Were you trusting your gut? Were your efforts well researched? This examination isn’t meant to shame you further; it’s meant to help you and your business grow.

Own up to it. You know my knee jerk reaction when I screw up? Find something to blame it on. It’s not pretty but it’s the truth. Because I know that it’s my initial response, I make sure I take a bit of time before acting so I can let that impulse pass. Then I own up without excuses. I apologize. I offer a solution. It’s the cleanest way to take responsibility.

Practice self-compassion. I recently had a big screw up (the impetus for this post). I’ve gotten to the point in my own personal work that I no longer ruminate over an awkward conversation or worry too much about what others think of me in a general way. But in this situation I let some people down and was full of shame about it. California could’ve grown as many almonds as it wanted with the tears I spilt; the drought would be over. I had a really hard time letting myself off the hook, even though the people affected were gracious and forgiving. As I dug around, I realized that the part of me so intent on raking me over the coals was trying to insure that I learned my lesson. I went through my systems, figured out what went wrong, owned up and decided to safeguard myself against it happening again so that my executioner-part could calm down. I reminded myself again and again and again that it’s okay for me to make mistakes. Mine was a mistake that affected others but didn’t hurt anyone; at most it was an inconvenience and disappointment to them. The way I was making it mean something about my personhood wasn’t accurate. It has allowed me to take the graciousness I was shown and pay it forward since we’re all surrounded by people being imperfect every day.

Remember that you’re not modeling perfection, you’re modeling humanness. You don’t have to do it all right. You’re not going to. Grant yourself the flexibility to be a full-fledged person with flaws who makes errors, cause it’s going to happen regardless.

What if it’s potentially legal? Call your liability insurance and talk to an attorney. That’s what you’re paying for. Ask the attorney for advice about next steps. Talk to people you trust to try to bust through fear and shame.

What works for you when you mess up? How have you screwed up and made it right? Let us know in the comments.


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