building self-esteem counseling for men depression Identity Relationships Teenagers

Dealing with Mistakes and Criticism

How do you deal with mistakes and the criticism that follows?  My son had a situation in a soccer game last week where he made a mistake and got called out for it by his teammates.  He was feeling embarrassed and angry.  It was tempting to tell him the other kids were just being jerks and to ignore them.  However, the criticism they gave him, although harsh, was not wrong.  He did make the mistake they were claiming.  He needed to own up to it and face it rather than avoiding it or placing the blame on someone or something else.

I thought about it for a few minutes before responding to his dilemma.  Although it’s hard to make mistakes and feel the embarrassment of them, it’s an important life lesson to own your mistakes and learn to be better.  If you can’t admit when you make a mistake you’re just failing to take accountability for yourself.  It’s a fool who can’t admit they make mistakes or screw things up on occasion because you still know you did it and so do the people who are involved. 

So with my son, he walked me through what went wrong, how he made an error in judgement and what he thought he could do to prevent it from happening again.  We talked about how to approach his teammates who got on his case about his mistake.  For example, he could admit it didn’t go well and ask them what he should do differently.  He might get some good advice and learn something.

We also went over events that resulted in the mistake.  For example, the coach had him play defender, which he hadn’t played before.  He misread cues from the goalie since he’d never had to do that before.  These are reasons for the mistake, not excuses.  Doing this is about figuring out how the mistake happened and it can help you feel better, but it doesn’t mean you didn’t  make the mistake.  He came up with a plan to talk to the goalie at the next practice so they both know what to do in future games.  

It takes courage to admit you’re wrong but it also builds integrity and honor.  It’s impossible to go through life without making mistakes, some of them downright embarrassing.  But to earn and keep your self-respect and the respect of others, you have to deal with them.  This means sitting with that feeling of feeling like an idiot for a while, but then brushing yourself off and trying to fix it.

I provide a lot of counseling for teenagers and young men and women and this is often one of the topics we address. How to develop self respect and earn the respect of others. How to conduct yourself at work, school, and in relationships. They are relatively easy lessons to understand yet few of us put them into practice. Even many of my fellow clinicians placate their clients by telling them their life choices weren’t their fault. They tell their clients their problems are caused by society or those “other” people. They say people should just accept you the way you are and if they don’t then there’s something wrong with them. Sometimes this is true, but most times if you want to find the person responsible for your misfortune, just look in the closest mirror. But that’s not so bad because it’s a lot easier to better yourself than to fix someone else.

Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan.  He provides counseling for couples, teenagers, and adults.  He can help with anxiety, depression, stress, college and work stress, relationship problems, and more.  For more information, please visit the website at