Self-Improvement For The Self-Deprecating

How to make your mistakes work for you.

It’s human nature to be imperfect. Almost all of the progress in human history has come from trial and error. Over the hundreds of thousands of years of human existence, we’ve been constantly making mistakes left and right. Some were more severe that others, but no one is alone when it comes to experiencing stress due to making a mistake. But if we stop looking at mistakes as a detractor and more of a stepping stone to success, we can ease a lot of that unnecessary stress we feel. Making mistakes helps us learn about ourselves. Our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our instincts, our biases. These are things that many people perceive as negative. But they still play an important role in defining who we are.

We all probably know at least one person that spends an unhealthy amount of time focusing solely on their positive qualities, consciously or not. While we can all agree that it’s important to appreciate our positive traits and virtues, we can’t shy away from or try to hide the other spectrum of our being. While some choose to avoid the “negative” side, we should choose to embrace it. In my own experience, I’ve found that embracing my negative qualities has helped me become more self-aware of my abilities, more connected with my emotions, and more empathetic to those around me.

The two biggest things we should try to focus on when we make a mistake are acknowledgement and rationality. People can sometimes slip into a phase of denial when it comes to admitting that they made a mistake, even when only admitting it to themselves. Stubbornness and pride play a big part in this, but I guarantee that we’ll feel more pride when we overcome our mistakes. It’s not our mistakes that define us, but the way we react to them.

Acknowledging our mistakes initializes our path to overcome them. Realizing that we’re wrong and knowing where we went wrong is crucial to the process. We should allow ourselves to view our situation from an outside, unbiased perspective. Maintaining an open mind is one thing that will help shed our personal biases. Often times we build up to our mistakes, they don’t always happen spontaneously. Look for those catalysts of chaos. Things that meant seemingly little at the time, but may have evolved into something larger. Working backwards and devolving the situation or retracing your steps can be helpful in some situations. Any way we decide to do it, the important thing is to find the source of our problem.

Our brains are probably hurting at this point and we may become stressed trying to remember where things turned for the worse. Rational thinking is going to keep our heads above water through this process. Many times, self-analysis can be overwhelming because we’re just naturally too hard on ourselves. Once again, open-mindedness is going to help us overcome some of those personal biases so we can view things with a clearer mind. Try to eliminate emotions and feelings from the situation as much as possible. This way we can think with reason and intellect, where often times emotions can misguide and disorganize our perspective.

Okay, so we know where we stand in the situation, now let’s try to put ourselves in an opposing perspective. Contrary to its name, playing devil’s advocate isn’t always as evil as it sounds. Many times we’re able to find something important that we previously overlooked, either in the situation or within ourselves. And that improves our awareness with everything that surrounds us, as well as our own self-awareness.

We’ve found our source of our mistake, are we done? Not quite. Knowing is just half the battle. Overcoming our mistakes involves putting ourselves into a position where we decrease our chances of making that mistake again in the future. We have to improve on whatever the source of the mistake was to make real progress. For example, if the source of the mistake is our laziness, an improvement would be to find incentives to motivate us to be more productive. Everyone is different so we’ll all come up with different solutions and improvements, but we should be able to find something that works for us. There’s no cookie-cutter way to overcome all mistakes, but with time and practice we can find a process that works efficiently for ourselves. And we could all use a little less stress in our lives.

Lastly, some insight you may find helpful after reading this.

Can we fix all of our mistakes?

Fix? No. Overcome? Absolutely. There are just some mistakes we can’t go back and re-do. Especially when it involves people and emotions, because everyone reacts uniquely to situations. Even when we overcome our mistakes, it doesn’t mean that everything goes back to the way it used to be. Sometimes we’re going to lose things along the way; those things just can’t be fixed. But through time we all lose and gain things anyways, and isn’t that what life is all about? The best we can do for ourselves is to acknowledge our mistakes and allow ourselves to learn from it and move on with our lives.

What do I do if someone I know has made a mistake and is stressed about it?

Support people through their mistakes. And in this case, “support” doesn’t mean “praise”. We can offer our support by helping people clear their heads and think rationally or by helping people to overcome their personal biases. We can offer emotional support so that they can get a grip on their situation. Whatever it takes to keep those stressors out of their head so they can think without interruption is going to go a long way. And let’s try to keep the focus off of ourselves. Their situation is unique to them and even though we may have similar situations, our solutions are not necessarily theirs. We can use the things we’ve learned through our mistakes to help guide them towards their solution, but we can’t force our solutions on them and think it’s going to be a perfect fit. Try to be empathetic instead of sympathetic. It’ll go a long way.