Mistakes Are Not Failures
We all make mistakes. That's a given, especially when confronting new challenges. How we deal with them seems largely to depend on our gender.
Men are not afraid they will make a mistake. Indeed, they are sure they will. They see a mistake as a lesson learned, a challenge, a sign of experience. Nothing to do with their ability. Their confidence is not affected. They will get it right the next time. Having internalized that story, and sold it, they are forgiven. They move on.
For women, it's an entirely different story. We too often live in fear that we will make a mistake. We equate mistakes with failure, and failure--and therefore mistakes--are not an option. We see it as our job to do everything in our power to avoid them--and so we work harder and more diligently, with our heads down, sometimes refusing new challenges, in the hope that we have covered all the bases. And when the inevitable happens, and a mistake is made, we believe we have failed. We take it personally and are disappointed in ourselves and our abilities. Our confidence shrinks. We become afraid of new territory, afraid of making another mistake--of failing again. When that becomes our story, we are not as easily forgiven and we do not as easily move on.
It seems to be largely a confidence game. Lots has been written about why girls, and then women, lack the confidence that comes so easily to our male brethren. Whatever the reason, we all should help break this cycle by reminding the girls and young women in our lives that a mistake is just something that is, or that turns out to be, wrong. It’s not negligence--the failure to act as a reasonable person. It's not intentional. It’s a mistake. And like men, we are bound to make many of them.
Now that we are retired and embarking on new adventures where our confidence in our ability to succeed doesn’t rest on as firm a footing as our legal careers did, we continually remind each other that we are bound to make mistakes along the way. Indeed, we have already made quite a few getting this site up and running. But, as we learned from our careers, some mistakes are so small they are not worth fretting about, and others just need to be confronted and dealt with so that we have the best chance of not making those same mistakes again.