Owning Your Mistakes


Written By: Ruth Monk


A few weeks ago my son put on his school shoes and wandered into the lounge. He is an 11 year old boy and we live in Auckland (where it feels like it never stops raining) so the school shoes were covered in mud. And, of course, he leaves a big muddy mark on the carpet.


When we notice this mud his first words were “that’s not my fault” – Whaaaaat????? It certainly wasn’t mine! It was the shoes fault, it was the weather’s fault, anything but his. Well, it is safe to say my husband and I lost our cool. It wasn’t the mud on the carpet but the total lack of responsibility. The consequences were dire. No electronic devices for a week (this is death to an 11 year old). After we all cooled down we explained to him that we wouldn’t have been so angry if he had just ‘fessed up’ and said sorry. People will like you more if you own your mistakes.

This week I went on a course and my student teacher was left in charge of teaching reproduction to thirty 14 year olds. I recommended a good video that explained the journey of sperm, (The Giant Sperm Race). But because we have it on the school server – which she can’t access – I looked it up online and sent her the link.


Well. When I arrived at school the next day her first words were “you stitched me up”. It turns out there are two versions to this documentary. The school appropriate version and the not so school appropriate version that includes strippers and manual stimulation of a pig (yes that does mean what it sounds like). She did have the presence of mind to switch it off but not before someone asked “Miss, what is that doing to that pig?”


At the end of the day this is my fault. And I have to wear and consequences. I confessed to the deputy principal (just in case any irate parent rang up) and I stood in front of that class and apologised to them. Sincerely and wholeheartedly.


In this world we all know people who will blame someone else rather than take responsibility.

  • I failed the exam – We hadn’t been taught that.
  • I got fired – My boss was jealous of me

Or its a vague apology “mistakes were made…” Or my most hated “I’m sorry you took offence” – the good old sorry, not sorry.


When you admit your mistake, you’re letting go of the negative energy that comes with you. You can look people in the eye and it loses its power over you. You no longer have to keep a facade of other lies going to maintain that original one. You will appear confident, humble and open-minded.

No one says it will be easy – it can be confronting, and tough. But it shoes you are relatable and have integrity. It builds transparency and trust. People will always respect you more when you stand up and say ‘crap, that was me – sorry’.


After the space shuttle Colombia exploded killing 7 astronauts, Launch Manager N Wayne Hale said:

“I had the opportunity and the information and I failed to make use of it. I don’t ,now what an inquest or a court of law would say, but I stand condemned in the court of my own conscience to be guilty of not preventing the Columbia disaster… The bottom line is that I failed to understand what I was being told; I failed to stand up and be counted. Therefore look no further; I am guilty of allowing the Columbia to crash.”

Did he have to do that? Not really. A vague response would have been adequate and in a system where there are many people with many roles your error could have gone unnoticed. But he stood up and said “it was me.” And at the end of the day, when we try to hide from our responsibility, we do it so people don’t think poorly of us. We want people’s respect and we want them to like us and think well of us. But for some reason we go about this backwards.


Last week my son got out of the car and left the car door wide open. All night, and it rained. And he gave me a cuddle and looked genuinely stricken. Then he said those magic words. “sorry mum, it was my fault.”

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