20 November 2018

20/11/2018   Making Mistakes- Is it so terrible?

How we deal with 'mistakes' and 'errors' is important as our reactions can affect so many things in our lives.  To err is human, to forgive is divine” is a frequently quoted saying which comes from an essay written on criticism by Alexander Pope  in 1711. Which just goes to show this struggle with mistakes  goes back a long way.

There are lots of web sites that advise about growing from our mistakes, how we can learn and let go. I have included a selection at the bottom. Some people don’t like to use the word ‘mistake’ but I do, interchangeably with 'errors', as this is commonly how people talk about themselves.

I want to focus on how we deal with our ‘errors’ emotionally. A lot depends on what you have already learned so far in life.  For most people it is natural to feel some shame, anxiety or fear around making mistakes.  Hopefully we can learn lessons and try to improve.   And of course it does depend on what type of mistake and  consequences. Are we talking about something that could have happened or did happen?  Did anyone suffer? How do we know how bad it is?

Some people can be more forgiving of themselves than others.  But for some the fear of making errors can be so huge that they have to try to be as perfect as possible, such that when they fall short of their own expectations it can feel devastating. Even if nothing awful happens.  This may lead to people feeling really badly about themselves even with the reassurance of others.

Of course high standards are important in many areas of life so it is not to say we should not aspire to be as good as we can. It is more about the reality of life that we may not always attain these standards and how we deal with this.  Tiredness, distractions, ill health can all have an impact on us.  In my view,  we need to take care of ourselves whenever we feel challenged by something. So if you have difficulties coping with errors or a drop in your usual standards:
  1. It is normal to have an emotional reaction after an error. Mistakes do not define who you are. Who you were  the day before still exists- you are just having a few doubts.  Try to keep hold of the real you.
  2. It is good to ask a few questions and learn from experiences.  This is healthy and can actually help you improve.  But avoid going round in circles- it does not help.
  3.  Check out with others so you can have a more balanced viewpoint. Get support.  It may not be as bad as you think. In fact more often than not it isn’t.
  4. Take extra care of yourself. When we go through stressful events we need to slow down and focus on self-care.
  5.  Remind yourself that you will feel better given time. You just have to go through this process. It will pass. Give yourself time. 
  6.   When you feel more grounded you can take stock of your learning. Including about whether your expectations of yourself were reasonable in the circumstances.

     To err is human”- welcome to the human race.  Like everyone you will be making a few more mistakes in life.  Learning how to take care of yourself in troubled times is an important lesson.  Below are some sample web sites:  

                 Growing from mistakes                     Getting over mistakes

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