More Than Our Mistakes

For the People Pleasers and Validation Seekers

Russ W


Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

If I’m a master of anything at all, it’s catastrophizing poor performance into evidence of deficiency.

It could be the tiniest morsel of a critique hidden in an otherwise glowing performance review. My mind will seize upon that morsel and manifest a mountain of doom.

You too?

When you’re a people-pleaser intent on defining yourself by others’ assessments, it can be easy to turn any innocent mistake into an indicator of personal worthlessness.

I take any misstep, error of judgment or interpersonal slight, and I bake it into my identity. I become failure embodied.

The oversimplified thinking goes something like this:

I did something stupid. Others said it was stupid — so then I must be stupid.

As Brene Brown would attest, this maladaptive logic loop is how the monster of shame grows and corrupts us from within.

The reality, however, is that personal growth and development are impossible without mistakes and failures. Some of the best lessons, wisdom and self-development sprout out of the most astonishing failures.

A Blunder for the Ages

I’ve made more than a few spectacular blunders in my day.

Here’s one.

In my second job of a 15-year career in marketing and public relations — I’d become fed up and disillusioned. I was paid well, and I was ladder climbing quickly. But my responsibilities had cannibalized my personal life. Weeknights, weekends and holidays had all but disappeared.

I was a 29-year-old paradox of cocky, arrogance wrapped around a vortex of insecurity. This was about when my reliance on alcohol to self-medicate away my frustrations began to spiral out of control.

I was hungover on Friday and “working from home.” Translation: dabbling in work, drinking hair of the dog and polishing up my resume (on my work laptop).

All afternoon, I’d been tinkering with a strategic recommendation about how to handle a sticky top-tier media inquiry. Finally, I finished the email and sent it off to the agency’s largest…



Russ W

Addiction therapist with an alphabet soup of degrees. Writer. Creative. Human. Hit me up: