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Self-Esteem and “Oops” Events

I had a hero when I was a young girl: Loretta Young. On her 1950s television series, she represented all that was stylish, glamorous, and graceful. Each week, when she glided down those stairs in those amazing gowns, she radiated charm, poise, and that something extra. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. I wanted to handle my life with that style, that grace, and that glamour.

Obviously, there was a lot I didn’t know about life at the time.

Everyone has at least one childhood memory of public embarrassment. These events tend to occur early in life, at a time when you probably don’t understand all that is happening around you. Perhaps you offered your opinion and found it wasn’t wanted. Maybe you fell and everyone laughed. Or your young body made an unanticipated public noise.

That would never have happened to Loretta Young!

Most people can easily recall a burning feeling of shame from childhood. Since you were too young to understand the incident, chances are your little mind made the same mistake that most other children make. You decided that something was seriously wrong with YOU.

What makes this so significant and yet so sad is that people cannot learn, grow, and develop themselves without mistakes. Growth is messy. You make mistakes, have painful feelings, and don’t have a clear mental picture of what to do next.

“Oops” Events

These are “oops” events. “Oops” events are normal and healthy. They are an indication that you are courageous, taking risks, and trying to grow.

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Loretta Young must have rehearsed her television entrance multiple times. Like all actresses, she practiced. I never saw her “oops” events. By the time her television show aired, she had learned her task. Her growth for that week ended before we saw her on the screen.

This is a very difficult aspect of personal growth for most people. We don’t give ourselves practice and rehearsal time. There is no stage. Your learning and growth take place in real time, and in the real world. Your “oops” events usually happen in front of other people. Then these “oops” events wrongly diminish your self-esteem.

Self-Talk to the Rescue!

This is where the tool of self-talk enters the picture. As you move through life, you will undoubtedly experience “oops” events. Guaranteed. When you do, you will automatically revert to old mental behavior and shame yourself. This is all part of a natural psychological process.

With some effort, you can change this sequence of thoughts. When you feel bad about yourself, tell yourself something different. Say all the supportive things you might say to a good friend:

  • “Everybody makes mistakes.”
  • “It’s okay.”
  • “You did a good job.”
  • “You just took a risk.”
  • “That was hard and you did it anyway.”
  • “I like you anyway.”
  • “What you just did doesn’t really matter. No one will remember it tomorrow.”

This too is a process that takes time. The only aspect of it that you can control is what you say to yourself in response to old mental behaviors.

So, be Loretta Young, and practice, practice, practice! Eventually you will learn your new skill. In the meantime, you can work toward feeling better about yourself.

Self-Esteem and “Oops” Events

Laura Russell

APA Reference
Russell, L. (2020). Self-Esteem and “Oops” Events. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.