The unexpected secret about accepting mistakes

Confession time: I’ve made A LOT of mistakes. Even the ones no-one ever noticed have felt HUGE to me.

Early on in my career, I made a small mistake that I genuinely thought would bring down the whole company. Looking back now, it seems laughable, but at the time, it was intense. The shame, the worry, the catastrophizing – I did it all!

But through some self-reflection, coaching and professional development, I’ve learned to manage and embrace my mistakes.

So what’s the secret then?

You probably want me to tell you I’ve learnt how to NOT feel bad about making mistakes, right?

If I thought that was possible I would absolutely tell you how! But the truth is a big part of what makes a mistake a mistake is that we DO feel bad about it. We can learn to limit that by putting things into perspective, by managing our thoughts and emotions about the mistake (all valid and yes, I can coach you through that too, but that’s not the secret I want to tell today)

Ok, so tell me already – what’s the secret?

The secret is KNOWING you will feel bad about making mistakes while also knowing you can 100% COPE with this feeling. That this feeling won’t last. That this feeling doesn’t mean anything about you. It is just a feeling.

So how does knowing that help me?

As human beings we are driven by our feelings – we seek nice, happy feelings and carry out the actions we think will lead us to these. We avoid difficult, unhappy, unsettling and painful feelings and do everything we can to avoid these ones, often leading to inertia and procrastination. We fail ahead of time.

But if we are no longer scared of the difficult feelings, then we no longer have any need to avoid them.

If you know you can cope with any feeling. If you know you can cope with the difficult feelings that accompany mistakes then you are much more likely to dream big, act bravely and go after all the things you want in life instead of playing small, procrastinating and wondering why you’re not moving forward.

I can’t promise you will learn to LOVE making mistakes, I still find myself falling into that same old shame spiral, but I notice it, acknowledge it and don’t let it define who I am. I no longer convince myself the shame will last forever, instead I allow myself to feel it. I sit with it, I process it and I move on.

And let me tell you, it’s helped me move forward in my career. I’m more confident, more resilient, and more willing to take risks.

So, if you’re feeling down about a mistake you’ve made, remember – it’s not the end of the world. This feeling won’t last, and who knows? Maybe one day you’ll look back and laugh at how intense you were about it.

Cheers to mistakes – may we make them, learn from them, and then make even better ones in the future!

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