Life & Beauty Weekly: Life & Love

By Anne L. Fritz for Life & Beauty Weekly


Liz Bruckner will never forget one of her first business lunches as a magazine editor.  She was seated next to her boss’s boss and even though he was kind and charming, Bruckner was completely anxious and nervous. When a nearby co-worker turned the conversation to a TV show that had aired recently, Bruckner started laughing and chiming in. Only she got so excited, her hands were flailing about and she knocked a glass of red wine all over her superior. “He was very gracious about it and said he’d done the same thing before, but I don’t think I’ve ever a) wanted the earth to swallow me more or b) been more red-faced and embarrassed,” says 33-year-old, Toronto-based Bruckner. “Everyone at the table was doubled over laughing and would constantly bring it up at the office for a good six months afterward. It totally did a number on my self-esteem.”

Most people can relate to a mistake like Bruckner’s — and the feelings that come with it. Forgetting to do something important or saying the wrong thing can kill your self-esteem. “The impact of any life event will be determined by the meaning we ascribe to it,” says Dr. Roger Covin, psychologist and author of The Need to be Liked. “Whether these mistakes affect you is dependent on the meaning we give to the mistake. For example, if ‘saying the wrong thing’ is interpreted as being further proof that you are inadequate or socially deficient, then the experience will make you feel bad.”

But everyone makes mistakes. It’s what you do afterward that makes a difference. Reacting in a positive way, right away, can help put you back in control and allow you to move on and regain your self-esteem.

Check out Covin’s strategies for how to cope with the following familiar scenarios. Put the advice into practice and you’ll come out feeling better about the mistake and yourself.

Scenario No. 1: You miss an important meeting because you’re late.
Bounce-back Strategy: Take action.

“When you miss an important meeting, apologize in earnest, admit how you feel about making the mistake (‘I feel terrible’ or ‘I am really embarrassed’) and do your best to avoid making the mistake again,” advises Covin. If the meeting went on without you, ask a co-worker to tell you what was discussed. Once updated, you can prepare for the next meeting and take action on any next steps.

If the meeting was cancelled because of your absence, take the lead in rescheduling it as quickly as possible. Be flexible with your calendar to accommodate everyone else’s. Putting yourself in charge of righting the situation helps you feel capable again. Getting up to speed or securing another meeting time right away also prevents you from dwelling on your goof.

Scenario No. 2: You say something dumb to your boss or in a meeting.
Bounce-back Strategy: Keep perspective.

Ask to speak to your boss in private after the meeting is finished and apologize for the comment, advises Covin. “It helps when people can hear how the experience made you feel (for example, ‘I feel ashamed for saying that’) and that you recognize the exact reason it was a mistake (‘It was inappropriate’ or ‘I crossed a boundary in making that comment’),” he says. “Making a good apology shows that you are self-aware, contrite and generally a good person who means well. It is very hard not to forgive a good apology made by a nice person.”

If you have trouble letting it go — or your co-workers don’t let you — keep reminding yourself that it’s normal to make mistakes and try to laugh about it. “When you make a mistake, others will usually be able to relate to how you feel,” says Covin. “If you can laugh at yourself, it shows a nice combination of humility and sense of humour.”

Also, be proactive and plan to be extra-sharp in the next meeting. Believe it or not, there may even be a silver lining: “When someone tells me about an embarrassing mistake they made and shows they can laugh at themselves, I feel more connected to that person,” says Covin. “They’re more relatable.”

Scenario No. 3: You forget to send cupcakes for your child’s school party.

Bounce-back Strategy: Own up to it, without excessive explanations or blaming others.

Admit your mistake — if you forgot, you forgot — and say you are sorry to your child and her teacher. You can offer a brief explanation if there are extenuating circumstances that you can share openly and honestly. “This is a small mistake,” says Covin. “Anyone who has children knows how busy life can be.”

Also avoid over-apologizing or offering multiple explanations. (“I didn’t write it down and the dog got sick and my boss …”) “There should be a correlation between the size of your apology and the size of your mistake,” says Covin. “Small mistakes demand small apologies.”

To make up for it, send cupcakes to replace the ones you forgot. And keep telling yourself that this one mistake (or even 50 more) does not negate all the other qualities that make you a great mother.

Scenario No. 4: You chose a haircut that turned out very, very bad.
Bounce-back Strategy: Focus on the whole picture.

You’re probably embarrassed, so you’ve got to do some self-reassuring to get past this temporary situation. “Humour can sometimes be the best form of therapy,” says Covin. “Having a laugh over something like this with your friends and family is perhaps the best thing you can do. In the end, the comedic value of the story will far outweigh the several weeks of embarrassment you will endure until the next hair appointment.”

It’s very important to maintain perspective, adds Covin. “Realistic self-reassurance will be a good tool to have in this case as well, something along the lines of reminding yourself, ‘I’ve dealt with far worse than this; I’ll be all right.’”

Scenario No. 5: During an argument, you say hurtful things you don’t mean.
Bounce-back Strategy: Be honest and take responsibility.

As soon as you can, apologize and ask for forgiveness. Explain that you know you hurt the other person and that the comment was your anger talking, not what you truly believe.

“Explain to your partner how you feel, why you were wrong, that you recognize such statements are inappropriate regardless of the context and that you will do your best not to repeat the mistake,” says Covin.

However, don’t be surprised if you still feel bad even after apologizing, says Covin. “The mistake many people make is that they notice those negative feelings are still lingering even after apologizing, so they think, ‘I must do something else to make this right’ or ‘I must have really done something terrible to feel this bad.’ This is emotional reasoning,” he says. “Allow some time for the emotions to stay with you and they will eventually leave on their own.”

Anne L. Fritz
is the former style director for
Life & Style and has been on staff at
Woman’s Day and
Working Mother. She has contributed to
Marie Claire, Glamour, Prevention and many websites, including
Everyday Health, About and Life & Beauty Weekly
. Fritz is also the founder of The Jet Set Girls
, a website about girls’ getaways. 

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