I once watched a talk show host interviewing a working mother. The host said, "Tell us how you feel, tell us about the guilt." The assumption of guilt was so strong that it was incorporated into the question! Women have even been known to feel guilty about not feeling guilty. Guilt is a healthy emotion when it causes us to change our behavior from wrong to right. That is all it should be used for. Unnecessary guilt amounts to excess emotional baggage, which only serves to hinder our efforts. If there is no need, desire, or opportunity to change our behavior, we owe it to ourselves and the people around us to drop the guilt. Feeling guilty causes us to concentrate on our failures instead of our successes and prevents us from focusing on the job at hand.

A tendency to blame ourselves for what goes wrong may cause us to avoid business positions that put us in the spotlight. How obvious will our mistakes be when all the world knows our every action? The reason for this tendency may be our lack of confidence or our unrealistic view of "competency," which we will discuss later. Whatever the reason, self-blame has a very limited place in the business world. We have all read about business men and women who refuse to see anything wrong in evading income tax or cheating their customers. These people should blame themselves for their wrong actions. But we must not blame ourselves when we make honest mistakes on the job. We must be aware that everyone makes mistakes, and the most successful of us make the most.

When it comes to mistakes, we must train ourselves to see them as learning tools, rather than indicators of our lack of ability. Women are much more likely to overemphasize our mistakes. We regard them as proof that we were unprepared and unable to do our job. We see mistakes as failures, and we view failure as unforgivable.

The men and career women around us are making mistakes left and right and coming out kicking. So must we.


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