Anna McCracken attended a ‘Fuck Up Night’ in Melbourne and has never looked back.
Fuck Up Nights are pretty much exactly as they sound – an evening where people discuss their biggest mistakes, their major fuck ups.
It is a global movement and event series that share the very human notion of fucking up. Originating in Mexico in 2012, the events began as a way for individuals to share public business failure stories to others.
Through the storytelling of mistakes, professional failures are discussed, as well as how these mistakes can also filter into the personal life of the speaker. Often through this experience of sharing, the impact of these mistakes will also resonate on a personal level with the audience members, making it a cathartic experience where messing up is normalised.
For three Fuck Up Nights, Anna McCracken was one of these audience members that listened to a series of fuck ups that ranged from marriage breakdowns, to failed business ventures and the loss of millions of dollars from a start-up. Then she was approached by one of the Melbourne Fuck Up Night founders Josh Lipscombe, to share her own mistakes, at an upcoming event, to which she quickly said yes.
The experience as a Fuck Up Night speaker, Anna describes as “transformative.”
“It was a transformative experience because the Fuck Ups were things I had been journaling and wanting to fix for a long time. I knew I needed to name them [mistakes] and own my own journey and take that step of courage,” she said.
For Anna this was her opportunity.
Although she says she had several professional fuck ups she could have chosen, Anna decided to share a more personal experience, from which she was carrying immense shame.
“My fuck up was my journey of the many fuck ups I made in my role as a social worker. It was about me ‘helping people’, or at least how I perceived helping to be.
Decisions and actions I made directly impacted people’s lives and I made massive fuck ups in relation to this. One that even saw children removed from their mother.
I had a lot of shame and a lot of guilt and I felt for a long time that if I said the mistakes out loud people would judge me and that they would think I wasn’t good at my job. I thought naming these fuck ups could also impact my own career prospects as an advisor in human rights law.”
For Anna, this was her opportunity to take control.
“If you name your shame you can tame your shame. For me naming it in front of hundreds of strangers allowed me to share the darkest bits of myself that I thought if I ever spoke about, people wouldn’t love me. I decided that I couldn’t not do it,” Anna said.
“It was nerve racking and it was personal. I was stripped back and raw in front of a room of 300 strangers, it was terrifying but also exhilarating,” she said.
Despite the room being filled with hundreds of strangers, Anna says, it is “a safe container. People are there because they want to connect with this human experience and hear other people’s journeys and what they have learnt.”
When night ended and Anna looked up there was a line of people who wanted to speak with her. They asked her questions, told her how her experience resonated with their own, they hugged her, and they cried.
“It was such a validation to see this. I had an idea that I wanted to be seen as a perfect person. That night allowed me to just say I am here because I have fucked up a million times. People obviously connected with this. I was human. I didn’t seem like I had all my shit together, I am still learning – people related to this.”
Anna said after the Fuck up Night her inbox was inundated with audience members messages.
“I felt like you were talking to my soul.”
“You get me, we need to talk.”
“I am going to same my shame.”
Anna sums up these responses up by saying she “gave others the permission to be courageous – professionally and personally.”
Although Anna’s experience resonated and impacted hundreds of people, it has been Anna herself who has felt the most impact.
“It is one of the most courageous things I have ever done. Courageous because I spoke about the level of shame and what I did had such a great impact on other humans. I went to the depth of it – the human component of being raw and vulnerable, that it is human to fuck up and that is how we learn. Sharing my mistakes at the Fuck Up Night was in one word, healing.”