Episode #83: Guilty Mistakes

Oct 31, 2023






In this enlightening episode, Dr. Priyanka explores the themes of mistakes and guilt, particularly examining their profound impact on working moms and women in general. From redefining mistakes as "plot twists" to reevaluating the dynamics of guilt, she uncovers the transformative power of handling mistakes with grace and resilience. Delving into the nuances of guilt, Dr. Priyanka skillfully navigates the landscape of self-judgment, societal expectations, and the pursuit of growth.


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What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Redefining Mistakes: Dr. Priyanka reframes mistakes as "plot twists," altering the charged perception often associated with this term.
  • Categorizing Mistakes: Identifying two broad categories of mistakes: those that affect personal goals and those that impact others, shedding light on different forms of guilt associated with each type.
  • Guilt Dynamics: Recognizing the role of guilt in self-criticism and its tendency to overshadow other vital emotions like curiosity, hindering the path to growth and learning.
  • Embracing Growth Mindset: Encouraging the shift from a guilt-driven mindset to one fueled by curiosity, forgiveness, and a commitment to learning from mistakes, fostering personal and professional growth.
  • Modeling Resilience: Discussing the importance of teaching children resilience through one's own approach to mistakes, demonstrating forgiveness and growth as fundamental life lessons.


Listen to the Full Episode:



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Full Episode Transcript:

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    Hey, this is Dr. Priyanka Venugopal and you're listening to the Unstoppable Mom Brain Podcast, all about Guilt and Mistakes. I'm out on another walk and talk to talk to all of you about mistakes and the feeling of guilt that I think pervades a lot of women, but especially working moms. I am a huge fan of talking about different angles and different perspectives on how women can handle mistakes more powerfully because I, I know this is just my personal experience and what I see with my clients when we know how to handle mistakes powerfully, we will get farther. We will get there faster. We will have bigger and better results on the scale. And in our life, so we're going to talk all about mistakes and the feeling of guilt that I think really weighs us down as women. And what we can do, what are some of the steps that we can take to overcome that?

    I hope you guys all enjoyed today's episode. If you hear some sounds in the background, some birds or maybe some construction, it is because I'm out on a walk and talking, and I hope you enjoyed today's episode. If you want to reach your ideal weight and create lightness for your body, you need to have simplicity, joy, and strategic decisions infused into your life.

    I'm a physician turned life and weight loss coach for ambitious working moms. I've lost over 60 pounds without counting points, calories, or crazy exercise plans. Most importantly, I feel calm and light on the scale and in my life. There's some delicious magic when you learn this work and the skills I'm going to be teaching you.

    Ready? Let's get to it.

    So let's just get into The nitty gritty of what I mean by a mistake. I, first of all, don't love the word mistake because I feel like it is usually quite charged. We think of mistakes and we immediately go into some kind of self blame or self criticism. We take on a lot of personal judgment. And I think that right there is a problem that we have a really charged relationship with making mistakes. Which is why traditionally generally speaking in the unstoppable orbit. I don't refer to mistakes as mistakes, I call them plot twists, but for the purposes of this episode Whether you call it a plot twist or a mistake, it is just semantics.

    It is changing Our relationship with mistakes. One of the things that I have seen coming up recently for both myself and what I see with my clients is how we talk to ourselves when we make a mistake. I find that there are two different kinds of mistakes, broadly speaking, two kinds of mistakes.

    The first one is the kind of mistake that harms you, maybe for weight loss, for example, you didn't follow your plan, maybe you didn't have a plan to begin with, maybe you had a plan then didn't follow it, maybe you didn't follow it really well, maybe you had like a screw it moment, complacent moment, you just didn't care, you gained some weight when your goal was to obviously to lose weight.

    So the first type of a mistake, quote unquote mistake, is that it gets in the way of something important for you. The second type of mistake is the type of mistake that creates supposed or potential harm to someone else. This could be your partner, maybe your children. Maybe if you're a physician, like your patients, or if you're in the workplace, your colleagues or team members.

    So I like to categorize mistakes as the kind that affects you and your results versus the kind that impacts other people. I think it's important for us to understand what is the difference for us when we make a mistake and it just impacts us versus when we make a mistake and it impacts other people.

    The most common, most reflexive thought when you're not aware of it is I shouldn't have done that. Right? How familiar are you with thinking when you reflect back on a mistake? Maybe your partner says that you did something wrong. Maybe you yelled at your kids and you see like, you know, your child's face crumble.

    Maybe a patient had an adverse outcome. Maybe a team member complained about you. Maybe you, the scale is up three pounds when you were hoping that it would be down. When we are not aware of it, our most reflexive, primitive brain will shout out in your mind, I shouldn't have done that. Now, if it was just that simple, if we just thought I shouldn't have done that, and then we just moved on with our life.

    Then this would not be a problem. This is not what most high achievers do. Most high achievers and most women let that thought, I shouldn't have done that. I should have done it differently. I should have done better. I should have done more. Some flavor of I should have done differently than I [00:05:00] did to permeate and really take over our mental bandwidth.

    And I would be willing to bet. So if you have a strong relationship with guilt, some of us I think have a much bigger relationship with guilt than others. You might find that thought pervading your thoughts a little bit all the time. It might be something that's lingering in the background for you all day long.

    Maybe if you had a big event happen or a bigger mistake happen, maybe it's like coloring your thoughts all day. Maybe it's like. It's getting in the way of you sleeping at night. You find yourself tossing and turning because you keep replaying the event. You keep thinking about how you could have done it differently, how you should have done it differently.

    And if only you had, then you wouldn't have to feel this way. Right? How familiar are we with the feeling of guilt. And I think that there's a reason that the term mom guilt was ever coined. It's simply because women I think are socialized to feel guilty more often. I don't really, pretty rarely do I see men make a mistake and then sit in a soup of guilt. I just don't see it happen that often. It happens for women mostly because we are socialized to feel guilty. So I want to just start off by saying, there's no such thing as mom guilt. There's just guilt that women are feeling more because we've been programmed to do so.

    I shared last week the boardroom of emotions. I shared that every emotion under the sun, including guilty, is just normal. It's a normal part of being human. We are sometimes going to feel happy and sad and mad and glad and angry and frustrated, embarrassed, ashamed, and even guilty. Now, if you think about the members of your boardroom.

    Every single emotion having a seat at the table, I think that guilt is the least valuable player, you know, like for sports teams, most valuable player for me, I think most valuable player is driven, determined, confident, right? Like a flavor of an emotion like that. But I want you to imagine that you had least valuable players.

    In my opinion, least valuable players are emotions like guilt, shame, embarrassment. I'm not saying that they are not valuable. I just think they're the least valuable. Now, if you think about guilt sitting at the table of your boardroom of emotions and you're thinking about how you want to navigate moving forward.

    Here's what typically happens, you make a mistake. Maybe you yell at your kid or you do something that, you know, maybe you think is a mistake with your partner. Maybe something happened with a patient or with a colleague at work. Maybe the scale is up because you over ate and forgot your plan. Made a mistake.

    And now you're sitting at the boardroom as the CEO and you're assessing the whole situation. You're assessing it. You're having a team meeting and you're assessing the situation. What has happened up until this point is that guilt, the board member guilt has taken over the microphone for the room. guilt is speaking into a megaphone and not letting go with, we shouldn't have done that, we did it all wrong, we should've done better, we could've done better, a whole slew of thoughts, creating more and more guilt. If that feeling, if that emotion, if those thoughts actually helped in some way, this podcast episode would never be recorded. The whole reason that I'm recording this podcast episode is because in my experience, when we are sitting in a soup of guilt, when we have a broken record in our mind, when we give guilt the megaphone and we don't let it go, we actually never solve the problem.

    Not only do we feel terrible, not only does the feeling of guilt continue perpetually for days, you lose sleep, weeks and months, but you don't actually solve the problem. You're never able to figure out, number one, What exactly was the mistake? Number two, I wonder why this mistake happened. And number three, how might I want to grow and learn from it?

    I want to tell you my perspective on this. Why is it that smart women, smart, high achieving women, working moms, are allowing themselves to sit in a soup of guilt, ever. Why is it that we give guilt the microphone and then like, Let her just take over the room. It is our way of punishing ourselves. This is my experience.

    My experience is that we are punishing ourselves by giving guilt the microphone. And I think that many of us have learned probably through, at least in my experience as a child, that punishment If we just punish ourselves enough that maybe we won't make this mistake again. Let me say that again. The only reason that we stay and sit in the soup of guilt, that we keep berating our own selves, whether it's subtle or overt, you're going to have your own flavor of, I shouldn't have done that, should have done it differently.

    If only I had done it better. The only reason we do that is because we are punishing ourselves because we believe punishment will change behavior. It has become a habit and it is something you likely learned decades ago that maybe you didn't even know was a thing. But I would say for most of us that giving guilt to the microphone is simply a learned habit.

    Now there is plenty of research that discusses that punishment and threats don't actually change behavior. It doesn't. Yet we do it all the time. So this, this episode really is an invitation. To let yourself off the proverbial guilt hook. How would it feel if you could recognize a mistake? Recognize the impact that it had on you, or maybe a loved one, or a colleague, or a child?

    Think about the impact that your mistake had. Be willing to forgive yourself in that moment, and actually learn and grow. This is the difference between having a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. And part of the reason that I will speak about making mistakes more powerfully, especially in the orbit of women and high achievers, is because This is the winning skill that I think needs to be in the hands of every woman.

    The only way to handle mistakes powerfully though, the only way to actually leverage mistakes and understand them and grow from them is We have to, we must first stop feeling guilty. Really think about this. How can anyone ever powerfully handle a mistake, learn from it and grow from it if we're feeling guilty?

    Okay. Really think about how is it that we can actually learn when we're in a soup of guilt. We are so focused on self-deprecation and self-deprecating thoughts like I shouldn't have done that. And I, I wish I had done it differently and if only I had done it better. We're occupying so much of our bandwidth with that monologue that there is no room for curiosity.

    Curiosity is another member of the boardroom. So again, last week's episode, all around your emotions and the boardroom of emotions. Curiosity is another member of the boardroom and she would love to speak. She would love the microphone. She would love to get in there and help you as the CEO figure out what exactly happened here.

    Why is it that we went off plan? Why is it that we yelled at our kids? Why is it that you got into a fight with your partner? Why is it that you made that mistake at work? Why is it that the patient suffered, or your colleague suffered? Why? Curiosity is a member of the boardroom, and she would love a turn to speak.

    But, here's the issue. While guilt is holding space, while guilt is holding the microphone, Curiosity doesn't really have a chance. It's like Guilt is holding the megaphone, the microphone, saying we shouldn't have done that. It should have been better. Just really imagine the scenario, okay? We should have done differently.

    We should have done it better. We shouldn't have yelled. We shouldn't have gotten into that fight. We shouldn't have eaten off plan with the microphone. So loud. And curiosity keeps trying to pipe in, like, without the microphone. Keeps trying to pipe in, like, hey, um, excuse me. We're trying to figure out why we did it.

    But curiosity is not getting any traction. Curiosity's voice is not being heard at the boardroom meeting. And so what ends up happening is guilt starts steering your ship. You start feeling guilt often, maybe in little moments or all the time, rather than understanding that any mistake you ever make is simply currency for your growth.

    This is not to say that there's not space or a place to feel remorse, to feel sad, to feel frustrated when you make a mistake. That's not the intention of this episode. It's not to absolve you from feeling an emotion. I just think that guilt is the least valuable player. So imagine what it would be like for you to...

    Feel guilty. You have that moment, you look back and like, dang it, I shouldn't have done that. I shouldn't have eaten off plan. I shouldn't have yelled at my kid. I shouldn't have said that to my colleague. I shouldn't have made that mistake at work. I should or shouldn't have done X, Y, Z thing. You're going to feel a flicker of guilt.

    That is your siren song. That is your signal to be like, okay, there's something here that matters to me. What if I didn't have to guilt myself in this moment? What would it look like for me to either feel remorse or feel sad or feel frustrated? What would it look like for me to just allow myself to feel an uncomfortable emotion because I made a mistake?

    And then truly, this is the step that we all can do for ourselves. Give yourself permission to forgive yourself. Really understanding that berating yourself with the constant monologue of guilt, the constant self critical thoughts around what you should or shouldn't have done, is not actually helping you or helping the [00:16:00] people that you might have harmed.

    And this is a big one where I think that sometimes people hold on to anger at being wronged or frustration at being wronged because it feels powerful. It feels powerful to talk about, to feel angry. It feels almost like, I don't know, it's like sometimes we hold onto anger just because like there's a righteousness to it, but really check in.

    What is that actually creating for you? I think that there is so much space here for forgiveness. And here's the caveat. If you make a mistake that creates harm for someone else, maybe you yell at your child and they stay upset with you or you say or do something and your partner stays mad at you. Or a colleague or a patient in the workplace is disappointed with you, they get to have their emotions too.

    This is the part that I think is really hard. We're going to be doing an episode on people pleasing coming up soon, but every single human that you ever interact with gets to feel how they want to feel. They have their own boardroom of emotions. They might want to feel angry. They might want to feel sad or frustrated or disappointed.

    You also, being mad at yourself, doesn't mean you care more. I promise you. I think that this is the other reason that we sometimes hold on to guilt. We like, kind of go into this like, I'm so terrible, I can't believe I did that, I'm so terrible. As an act or as a way of showing other people that we care more, that we care that we made a mistake.

    What if you didn't have to feel guilty to care? Can you imagine the impact of that for you personally? If you didn't have to feel guilty or show guilt just to show that you cared. I mean, this might feel uncomfortable if you try it out, but I want you to humor me. For the next month, it's not if you make a mistake, it's when, when you make a mistake, because we're human and we are bound to do so.

    When you make a mistake and you hear yourself, you hear guilt taking the microphone in your boardroom and you hear yourself think, we shouldn't have done that, we totally messed up. I can't believe it. Should have done better. Shouldn't have done it that way. Catch it at the moment. Really bring a lot of, oh, just becoming aware that you've given guilt to the microphone.

    You are not guilt. You're just feeling guilt. Being aware of it, naming it in the moment is how you create some space from it. It's how you, it's how you recognize, Oh, this is guilt. So normal. We're going to take the microphone back. Let's take a look at what happened. Why did this mistake come to be? Who was harmed by this?

    Was I harmed? Was my child, was my family, was a colleague. What exactly happened here? I wonder why it happened. Start giving the microphone to curiosity. I promise you this is not complacent. Giving the microphone to curiosity, taking it away from guilt. You are not berating yourself or being so critical of yourself.

    Self flagellating so much is not being complacent. It is truly a powerhouse for you to create more of what you want. I am on a mission for working moms to stop punishing themselves just because they make a mistake. I'm on a mission for women to not feel like they have to hold onto guilt because they make a misstep.[00:20:00]

    We are holding ourselves to some impossible standard, especially working moms hold themselves to this impossible standard. And because we have this impossible standard of being working moms, we are working at jobs that are demanding. And we have these children who are also demanding and we have families that are also demanding.

    We are bound to have imperfect moments. And so if we don't do this work, if we don't learn how to take the microphone away from the guilt as the least valuable player that it is and give it to the, in the hands of curiosity and compassion and learning and growth, we are signing ourselves up for a life of guilt for a life of misery.

    And I'm going to tell you one more thing. That is not something I want to teach my children. I do not want to teach my children this. There is one thing to tell your kids. We all do it. We all tell our kids, let's learn from our mistakes. How often do we say this? Let's learn from our mistakes. But if we are not doing it ourselves, if we're not modeling it ourselves, it is just lip service.

    So I want to challenge all of you that we can change and heal generational trauma simply with this one act, giving yourself permission to let yourself off the guilt hook, catching those thoughts in the moment, and really be willing to forgive yourself, to grow, and most importantly, to learn. When you learn from your mistakes.

    When you start coming up with plans and strategies on how to learn from them, how to make powerful tweaks in the future, you will not only change your life, you will teach your children resilience. This is my belief, because in my opinion, I'm just going to share my opinion. I know that my kids are going to make mistakes, probably many, many mistakes.

    And instead of me becoming angry with them and yelling at them and being so frustrated that they haven't learned better yet. Like all of the things that I know I felt when I was a kid making mistakes. If we got in the practice of expecting that our children are going to make mistakes, we stopped meeting them with anger and frustration and instead met them with exactly this approach, teaching them to forgive themselves.

    Teaching them that it's possible to feel remorse or disappointed and also to love themselves. They are going to learn resilience. They're not going to be afraid of making mistakes as they grow up. I mean, that's really what I want for my kids. I want my kids to not be afraid of mistakes. Right now, my kids, are eight, and five, they totally are, they hate making mistakes.

    Especially my daughter, who is... A little bit of a perfectionist, which is interesting because I talk so much about perfectionism. This is just like her natural way. She was born like this. She really, really wants to do well. And she prides herself. And this is going to come in my people pleasing episode. I have so many thoughts about some of her people pleasing tendencies.

    She has this desire to do really well. And whenever she makes a mistake, she used to get really, really, really down on herself. My son is like, this is just like a personal example. My son is a pretty phenomenal piano pianist. He learned, he self taught how to play the piano. He is playing some like crazy, amazing songs and we were just blown away by his musical talent.

    And he's just has this natural inclination. And my daughter was trying to learn how to play the piano, kind of the same way that my son did. And she was getting so frustrated. She just got to like. You know, the three finger, the three finger C, D, and E. And she kept, her hands are small. She's only five. She kept struggling with the E, the E key.

    And she would get herself so frustrated that she would just bang on the piano, start crying, and be like, I just can't do it. And she would want to quit. I'm gonna tell you what I told her, and what I continue to tell her if she lets me, every time she's willing to listen. I tell her that it's okay that it's hard.

    It's okay that your third finger is not reaching the E. It makes a lot of sense that you feel frustrated. Frustrated is just one member of her boardroom, right? But at the same time, when you remind yourself, it's okay and I can do this and I'm going to figure this out. Even if I made a mistake, I can figure this out.

    You will start taking more action, more needle moving action, more forward action. What she started doing now is she, whenever she gets frustrated, she, I see her do this. She takes this big huffy, puffy breath and she's like, I can do it. I love her so much. She is just like such a delight. And because of that, she has stopped quitting when it feels hard.

    I see her get really frustrated and she does this like little, I can do it breath. And she keeps going. So I invite all of us to take the same approach that a child might take to be more playful with your mistakes, even if they are serious. To give yourself permission to have remorse or sadness or grief or anger.

    Let yourself feel those emotions, but then also be willing to forgive yourself. You don't have to stew and sit and marinate and punish yourself by sitting in guilt or any of those emotions like anger and sadness. Be willing to forgive yourself so that you can learn so that curiosity has a chance at the microphone.

    I love this topic so much. This is so much of what I do with my clients in the Unstoppable group. Yes, we talk about weight loss and we talk about food and plans and, you know, losing the weight that you want. But honestly, that ends up being such a small portion of what we coach on every single week. Just even in the last few weeks, we have been coaching on Being moms, we've been coaching on the workplace, we've been coaching on marriages because working moms are going to have many imperfect moments.

    And the only reason that you will end up in a pile of chips in the bottomless bag of chips in a bottle of wine at night when you're not actually hungry is because you're trying to avoid a member of the boardroom. So this is an invitation. You don't have to ever avoid any of these emotions, but you do have to know how to engage with them.

    I love doing this work. I think it is incredibly rewarding for me as a coach, as a working mom myself, and it is really a part of my mission for all the women that I ever have a pleasure of working with. So I hope you all enjoyed today's podcast episode around guilt and if you want more resources. Head over to www.theunstoppablemombrain.com I have free resources for you can click the button and sign up for my five day mini course is totally free. And it's really, really valuable for you to lose the weight you want with less time and join my wait list. My next Unstoppable group is going to be opening soon. So it'll give you all of the details for the dates, the times the investment, every single question is answered over on my website. So I hope you all enjoyed today's episode. I will see you next week. Bye. Thanks for listening to the Unstoppable Mom Brain Podcast. It's been an honor spending this time with you and your brilliant brain. If you want more resources or information from the show, head on over to theunstoppablemombrain.com.

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