Why Do I Feel So Bad After a Mistake?
Shit happens. Maybe you missed a detail, said what you shouldn’t have, or forgot something. Your intent wasn’t malicious, but now you’re up at 3 a.m. and your brain is spinning in circles. You’re thinking about the worst-case scenario and you’re convinced that everyone is judging you as harshly as you’re judging yourself.
Intellectually you know it’s not the end of the world, but you can’t stop telling yourself that you should have been better.
Even though we all know that mistakes happen, when we make a mistake, many of us can’t seem to let it go. When we can’t let it go the problem isn’t the mistake itself, it’s how we allow our fear and judgment to affect us going forward. This can compound the impact of the mistake.
What Keeps You Stuck After a Mistake
When you can’t get past a terrible mistake it almost always boils down to the following:
- Refusing to accept that it happened by imagining and wishing for impossible scenarios that take you back in time.
- Allowing the mistake to mean something about you.
- Assuming what other people are thinking about you.
- Predicting the worst-case scenario and imagining horrific fallout going forward.
How Do You Recover Mentally From a Terrible Mistake?
To get past a terrible mistake you need to do the following:
- Accept that what has happened has happened and start looking forward. In Kickstartology we call that getting to the “Now what?”. It sounds simple, but it involves forgiving yourself and accepting that you are not a perfect robot. Self-compassion will help you move forward faster and more objectively.
- You are not defined by your mistakes. You may have done something that could be interpreted in a negative light, but that doesn’t mean that you are a bad person or unworthy of respect. To be blunt, sometimes smart people do stupid things, but it doesn’t mean that they are stupid.
- You don’t know what others are thinking, you can’t control what others are thinking, and people tend to greatly overestimate how much people are thinking about them. Spend more time thinking about what you think than what other people think.
- Catastrophizing is a waste of time. If you imagine the worst-case scenario you should spend equal time imagining the best-case scenario. Instead, imagine how you can move forward and focus on the things you can control.
- DECIDE: You can only move forward. How you respond to a screw-up can change your life
How do you want to show up now? It comes back to the two Kickstartology Coaching questions: Who do you want to be and how do you want to live?
Law of Alignment #11: Stop being an a$$hole to yourself.
You can forgive yourself AND take responsibility. Taking responsibility does not mean you need to feel guilty and beat yourself up. When things go wrong, it’s often a sign that something needs to change. Begin to see mistakes as a data point: what do you need to adjust so that this doesn’t happen again?
Law of Alignment #8: Collect data, not judgements.
Practice Redirecting Your Mind
It’s normal to have some negative feelings come up after making a terrible mistake, but it’s not normal or necessary to keep torturing yourself. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that makes everything go away, but learning to manage your mind and direct your thoughts to the steps above will make it easier to handle.
Keep reminding yourself of the following:
- Mistakes happen.
- I can take responsibility for my actions and forgive myself.
- I can’t control what other people think or do.
- I can only move forward.
- I am in charge of what I do next.
Ask yourself the following:
- What can you not control?
- What can you control?
- What outcome do you want to create?
- What will you do next?
Learning to manage your mind is one of the key components of the Kickstartology Online Group Coaching for Women Program. We help you get good at this so that you can get out of your own way and find out what’s possible.