You do it, I do it: How to cope with embarrassing mistakes you make

An illustration of the same girl smiling on one side of the image and covering her face on the other side.
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In the past couple of weeks, I have managed to make several embarrassing mistakes in my UC Berkeley-affiliated life. Of course, I have made many embarrassing mistakes throughout my years in college, but never in my life have I made so many in a row. 

For example, this past week I managed to accidentally chat a fairly inappropriate and poorly timed message to everyone in a Zoom lecture that read, “I gotta go PEEEE.” I also sent out a private email to the wrong address, which reached the majority of the people in an organization I’m a part of. These were not cute moments and they were both very avoidable. For those reasons, I was very temporarily embarrassed.

What differentiates an embarrassing mistake from a nonembarrassing mistake is perhaps obvious at this point. An embarrassing mistake makes you feel, what? You guessed it: embarrassed. I’m pretty sure I make mistakes every single day, but I don’t feel necessarily embarrassed by them. 

The feeling of embarrassment is distinct. For many, it may bring forth a mixture of foolish, awkward and self-conscious sensibilities. Personally, I start to get physically warm. Perhaps some of you can relate. Most of all, what makes a mistake embarrassing is that it probably could have been completely avoided in the first place if there was a little bit more care and attention allocated to what you were doing.

But at the end of the day, it’s all good, and there’s no need to trip for a prolonged period of time over your embarrassing mistakes. Why? Because we all make embarrassing mistakes. Many of us college kids have a lot more embarrassing mistakes coming our way and have probably made a fair amount along the way. 

Catch me a couple years ago as a little freshman and I would have dwelled a little bit more on the embarrassing mistakes I made, especially if they were attached to my UC Berkeley life. But, now I only trip for a millisecond, laugh at myself, deal with the mistake if it is in my power to do so, own it and move on.  

Owning and then quickly moving on from an embarrassing mistake may be one of the best things you can do to cope with feelings of foolishness or self-consciousness. There is no reason to hold onto something that you no longer have any control over. The mistake has been made and now the only control you have is how to react or respond to it! We at the Clog suggest reacting in a way that highlights the humor and relatability that exist in the mistake you’ve made.  

After all, embarrassing mistakes become a great starting point for humorous stories. For instance, I gave my friends a good laugh last week when telling them about my pee proclamation over Zoom. And honestly, it’s pretty hilarious upon reflection, especially given some of the responses I received in my private chat on Zoom (i.e. “just go dude …”). While it was an embarrassing moment in and of itself, I owned it and seemed to humor the majority of my class.

Perhaps the topics of embarrassment and coping with embarrassing mistakes are kindergarten lessons, or ones that feel banal. Many of you may already be chilling with your embarrassing mistakes, which is stellar! But for those who let their embarrassment linger or need a reminder that we all make these sorts of mistakes, this one’s for you! If you feel like you’re alone making a lot of embarrassing mistakes, know that you definitely aren’t. So, cheers to embarrassing mistakes and entertaining post-mistake stories.

Contact Gina Wright at [email protected].