Rebounding from a Mistake
Fall down seven times, stand up eight. – Chinese proverb
Obviously making mistakes and failing makes us feel bad…. and we feel worse yet if we make a mistake through our own hubris, our own sloppiness or stupidity. Times when we zig when really, we should have zagged. Those… those are the worst.
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone, unless of course you’re an omniscient, omnipotent being like “Q” from Star Trek lore. Many people bounce back quickly and the problem soon becomes water off a duck’s back. They move on, accept the mistake and keep going forward. Lucky them!!!
However, for some people, making any small mistake can shape-shift into a furry, fanged monster of emotionally painful self-recrimination; where feelings of extreme self-doubt can paralyze them into a state of over-analysis and beating themselves over the head.
Whereas many people can more easily accept their mistakes, take them for what they’re worth, learn from them, and then move on forward…. Some human beings seem to be overly sensitive to their own mistakes and seem to get stuck in thinking about and analyzing them; rather than being able to move forward and feel better.
Like all human behavior though, it’s probably on a continuum… some people bounce back really quickly from mistakes, some people take a long time to bounce back and some people are in the middle.
OK now that we’ve established that you feel crappy about your failure.
Now what? How do you stop floundering in guilt, shame and feelings of not being good enough?
How do you bounce back?
You start the process of bouncing back by building a sound foundation of physical and mental health.
The important thing is to start, make an effort.
Try your best to stop feeling sorry for yourself and start with even the smallest of steps even.
Challenge the negativity that a mistake brings on.
Jazz great Miles Davis said: “When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that makes it good or bad.”
1. Slow down and breath or… speed up and breath harder and get on a sweat.
Make sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep, getting exercise and taking care of yourself physically and emotionally. If exercise works exercise a little more, challenge yourself. Read a good book, spend time with friends, and live life. Try some mindfulness or other meditation, maybe yoga or other group exercise. Try to do the things that make you feel good.
2. Get perspective:
Try your hardest to open your mind a little and maybe even get some opinions from trusted friends and family if you are comfortable doing so.
Shift your thinking from the empty half of the cup, to the fuller half.
Take the time to think about these types of questions and statements:
Is my thinking about this situation realistic and balanced or is it flawed in a way I’m not seeing or I’m not accepting?
Am I really truly being fair with myself or am I really beating myself up?
Am I catastrophizing this mistake and maybe making it feel much bigger than it really is? Is anybody actually physically hurt or threatened with harm? Will it even matter a year from now? A month from now?
I will learn from this and move forward because I have proof that I’ve done so in the past. How did that rebound happen? Write down some of the keys that made this past example of bouncing back possible.
And a really hard one for many people: I accept what’s already happened and that sometimes there are just things that I can’t control in life.
Everyone makes mistakes, I repeat: Yes, it’s a mistake, everyone makes them, it absolutely does not reflect on who I am as a human being.
Do I have hang-ups or “emotional baggage” from my childhood that is playing into this and making it even more difficult? Do you have deep feelings of guilt, or anxiety or shame feelings that really interfere with your life?
Is this kind of negative, defeatist thinking a pattern in my life? Taking small mistakes and making them larger and more meaningful than they should be? Seeing them as a failing of your self? A character flaw?
If so and these situations happen often and make you really quite emotionally upset.
Would I benefit from talking to someone, even a professional helper like a Psychologist, or a Clinical Social Worker?
Here are few good places to explore accessing a therapist if that’s a fit for you:
3. Positive thinking/gratitude/visualization:
Don’t let negative thoughts and negative images of regret, mistakes and failure rule your mind.
Think of the positives in your life: the people, the home you live in, your music collection, the yummy special meal to make in your fridge, the beautiful sunrise, the soft breeze today, the cute baby you saw at the mall, that your favourite Netflix series has new episodes.
Make a list of the things you are thankful for, also called a gratitude list, write them all down, no matter how small or silly, and be thankful for the good things you have that aren’t affected by one small mistake.
Try to make an effort to think of positive memories from your past successes. What mistakes have you ”recovered” and rebounded from before? How did you do it?
4. Unfortunately, some people are terrible at rebounding from mistakes because their self- esteem is in the pits.
Self-esteem acts like an inoculation against getting stuck in our mistakes and feeling bad about ourselves.
Explore ways to shore up your self-esteem. Most especially if your emotional response to the mistake is way bigger than it should be, and especially if you notice that you are really putting yourself down.Read articles and books on how to build self-esteem.
Websites like this: http://psychcentral.com — Self Esteem Search
Or good solid self-help books like this: https://www.newharbinger.com/self-esteem-workbook
5. What if you’re really scared of making another mistake?
Here’s a great video from Seth Godin that can help you quell your fear of failure:
6. Finally… the most important thing, really, is to make an effort — become aware of and challenge any flawed thinking patterns you might have, especially patterns that can be destructive regarding your self-worth and self-esteem.
Repeat over and over to yourself if you have to… that mistakes happen to everyone, absolutely everyone… it’s just part of being human and humans are flawed.
Make an effort to see your own worth, build your self-esteem, see a therapist, read self-help books, watch Ted Talks on self-esteem… really try strategies until you find one that’s meaningful to you.
Oh and here’s a great Ted Talk on recovering from a mistake:
And here’s a link to some more great ideas to bounce back. Coping with change: