Have you ever had one of those times where you make a mistake and immediately regret it, but aren’t sure how to fix it? And then the mistake (whether word or action) keeps circling in your mind and you end up even more embarrassed/humiliated/guilty?
Of course you’ve had one of those times. You’re human.
And obviously, so am I.
I was having a lively discussion over dinner in my backyard with several friends and new acquaintances. As the night went on and the margaritas flowed freely, we covered everything from business to love to parenthood to our online worlds. Dinner parties like this are pretty much my favorite thing ever: candles were lit, the stars were out, and we were going deep, battling wits, belly laughing and storytelling.
In the midst of conversation, I dropped a intimate dollop of gossip about someone we were discussing.
Nothing extraordinary happened in the moment, except that I felt that ping of regret. We all continued talking. The fun-filled night went on.
The next morning, I was still rehashing that moment of gossip in my head. And when my husband brought it up (blunt honesty is totally allowed and appreciated in our relationship) and I reacted by immediately flushing and saying,”I know. I know. I can’t believe I said that” it was obvious that I needed to make it right, best I could.
There’s no easy way to apologize for a mistake that’s totally your fault except to just own up to it.
So I apologized with this exact email.
It was absolutely wonderful seeing you this weekend, getting to spend time breaking bread and getting caught up on life/love/deep thoughts. Thanks for sharing yourselves!
That all said, I had one of those shameful embarrassed feelings all day yesterday and I want to make it right, as best I can with this tiny email.
I was completely out of line sharing personal gossip about XX. Honestly, I have zero basis for the “xxxxx” proclamation, besides that someone else told me. We all know “someone else told me” is the exact definition of nasty gossip and spreading rumor fodder. As someone who tries really hard to be loving, open, accepting and positive — I’ve been trying to figure out why I said that… That kind of cattiness is unlike me, but I totally indulged with you all around the dinner table and it’s been weighing on me.
And although it would be easy to blame it on the alcohol (!) I think there is a deeper piece that has veins in jealousy and/or wanting to be a bigshot by association. So, I’m doing my own work there but wanted to apologize for dragging you through my mud.
It’s a little boggling because I adore and respect XX. Please do me a favor and erase that tidbit from your story about them — it may or may not be true, but it is absolutely not my place to spread gossip.
Oh, the inner workings of a mind dedicated to authenticity. Thanks for “listening” my lovely friends and again, apologies for being out of line and out of integrity.
I’ll be honest. I feel completely vulnerable sharing this with you.
There’s still many parts of this story that I’m not sure I handled correctly.
Should I have just forgotten about it and moved on? Should I have called everyone individually instead of writing my apology? Should I have owned up to XX that I spread gossip that I now regret? Should I have not been drinking those margaritas in the first place? Should I be sharing this embarrassing mistake and apology script with the world at all?
I don’t know.
All I know is that I’m doing the best I can, day by day.
I’m learning about the kind of woman I am and the kind I want to be through my mistakes, as well as my successes.
I’m learning from my pain and trying hard to live in alignment with my values, but sometimes I fail. Sometimes I fuck up.
And sometimes I have to apologize.
Just like you. Just like all of us.
p.s. One thing that I do feel adamantly proud about is my ability to distinguish the difference between shame and guilt.
I learned this from Brené Brown in her first book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t) and thought it might shed light on why I felt the need to apologize for gossiping, rather that becoming depressed because “I am a gossip.”
Brené says, “Guilt and shame are both emotions of self-evaluation; however, that is where the similarities end. The majority of shame researchers agree that the difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the differences between “I am bad” (shame) and “I did something bad” (guilt). Shame is about who we are and guilt is about our behaviors. If I feel guilty for cheating on a test, my self-talk might sound something like “I should not have done that. That was really stupid. Cheating is not something I believe in or want to do.” If I feel shame about cheating on a test, my self-talk is more likely to sound like “I’m a liar and a cheat. I’m so stupid. I’m a bad person.”
Guilt is holding an action or behavior up against our ethics, values and beliefs. We evaluate the behavior (like cheating) and feel guilt when the behavior is inconsistent with who we want to be. Shame is focusing on who we are rather than what we’ve done. The dangers of telling ourselves that we are bad, a cheat, and not good, is that we eventually start to believe it and own it. The person who believes she is “no good” is much more likely to continue to cheat and fulfill that label than the person who feels guilt.
…When we apologize for something we’ve done, make amends to others or change a behavior that we don’t feel good about, guilt is most often the motivator. Recognizing we’ve made a mistake is far different than believing we are a mistake.”
p.p.s. This is one of those posts where I own up to my own shortcomings in order to honor the spirit of Stratejoy — authentic joyful living in a messy world.
Although I’m cringing as I hit publish, this story is a true tale of doing my best to course correct when I fuck up in hopes that you don’t feel alone or ashamed next time you fuck up. Treat yourself gently, honey. I know just how hard it can be.