Reflecting on the mistakes you’ve made is completely normal. This might surprise you, but in time, you may find yourself grateful for some of the past mistakes you’ve made. There is a lot to learn from messing up. It’s normal to feel the shame of being less than perfect. Whether you made a mistake from not listening well enough or you made a mistake out of lack of information, discover what went wrong to mitigate this mistake from reoccurring in the future. While you can harp on your mistakes all day, take this opportunity to grow and become better.
If you’ve made past mistakes, you are not alone. If those mistakes are still hanging over your head, here are some tips to help you move on.
Accept negative emotion
Often, your initial state of mind after you’ve realized you’ve made a mistake is a flood of negative emotions. You’ll likely experience a range of feelings such as embarrassment, shame, remorse, dread, or sadness. It’s also not uncommon to feel angry or defensive when you realize you’ve made a mistake. Whatever emotions you feel, it’s important to remember they are all a natural result of the circumstances. It’s just your brain trying to cope with what you’re experiencing. The important concept to remember at these times is to accept the negative emotions you are feeling.
Commonly in our culture, the virtue of “mind over matter” is put on a pedestal to the point where it can be harmful to mental health. This concept praises the ability to ignore one’s feelings and only process life from an objective standpoint.
However, studies have shown that ignoring your emotions can often multiply the stress, anxiety, and depression you are already feeling. Not only do the psychological issues increase, but “avoidance coping” can also manifest itself in physiological issues such as heart disease, autoimmune diseases, headaches, digestion problems, and insomnia.
When you realize that you’ve made a mistake, big or small, don’t shy away from the negative emotions you feel. Challenge yourself to accept them and move through them in a healthy way.
Have your own back
When you’ve made a mistake, whether recently or in the past, it’s an opportunity to practice having your own back. This means you accept that you made the best decision you could with the information you had at the time. While hindsight is always 20/20, beating yourself up over not having all of the necessary information available to you at the time will prove to be detrimental. You can avoid feeling regret if you own up to your choices, supporting yourself in your decision-making skills.
Here are some easy steps you can remember to help you practice having your own back:
- Stop beating yourself up: Commit to treating yourself the same way you would want an exceptional teacher or mentor to treat you. Don’t punish yourself beyond the negative emotion you are already feeling.
- Decide that you made the best decision that you could with the information you had at the time: Knowing what you know now, you may have made a different decision. You may have avoided a mistake and sidestepped the pain and discomfort you are currently feeling. However, you didn’t know better. You can’t fault yourself for making a decision based on the best information you had at the time. Decide to trust yourself, your values, and your thought processes. You did the best you could, and oftentimes the information available to you is outside of your control.
- Be proud of yourself: Decision-making is not easy. Pushing through a dilemma requires confidence and discipline. Be proud of yourself for going through a difficult decision. If you regret a decision you’ve made, you can’t guarantee that making a different decision would have resulted in experiencing zero negative emotion. If you’ve owned up to your mistake and the impact it’s had on others, be proud of yourself for being a prime example of accountability. You’ve likely learned something through the mistakes you’ve made, so don’t diminish that.
Make amends with others
It’s definitely painful to know that you’re the cause of the negative feelings you’re experiencing. It’s oftentimes more painful to realize you’ve caused that feeling for other people as well.
When your mistakes hurt others try your best to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to feel their pain. Make amends for that by taking ownership of your mistakes and apologizing. Ask them what you can do to make things right. Most importantly, show them you will do your best to make sure this mistake doesn’t happen again.
Showing that you care about how your actions impact others is the best way to make sure that they will have your back too. The next time you make a mistake, others will feel confident to have your back since they know that you have their best interest at heart.
Look for the learning opportunities
Perhaps one of the best things you can do after you’ve made a mistake is to reflect and learn. This quote from Nelson Mandela sums it up best, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.”
Oftentimes, this is called a growth mindset: the knowledge that you can sharpen and refine your skills by learning as you go.
If you adopt the mindset of learning from your mistakes and failures, you can derive meaning from your actions. For example, if you fumble a presentation because you weren’t prepared, perhaps you’ve now learned exactly how much prep time you need to set aside to be successful. If you make a bad judgement call in how your department operates, you can research more effective ways to gather information about how your department works at its best. With this mindset, mistakes can be a great learning tool.
The bottom line
While you can harp on your mistakes all day, take this opportunity to grow and become better. Though mistakes are not fun to experience, you may find that you can benefit a lot from the mistakes you’ve made. Choosing to learn from them can be a great way to practice self-improvement. Perhaps in time, you can be as grateful for the mistakes you’ve made as you are for the successes that have come your way.
How have you learned to move on from mistakes? Are you grateful for any past mistakes? Let us know in the comments!