How to stop obsessing over mistakes

Mistakes happen to all of us in our careers. But some of us cling to these mistakes longer than others.

Maybe you lie awake at night, still feeling nauseous and anxious about upsetting a client by accidentally giving them the wrong information. You may be avoiding your teammates because you feel like they are all judging you for this mistake, even though it happened last week. If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, you may have a tendency to fixate on mistakes.

These constant worries are fueled by the shame that you feel completely inadequate and the fear that others will discover your lack of ability. Tanisha Ranger, clinical psychologist from Nevada. Once you start dwelling on mistakes out of shame, it can lead to more serious problems like perfectionism.

“Shame often gives way to perfectionism, and perfectionism makes mistakes monumental. In essence, “If I don’t do everything perfectly right, then I am a failure, and everyone will see my inferiority,” she said. “I have had many clients who struggled with an obsession with making mistakes at work. [They lay] not to sleep at night, thinking and reproaching himself for a mistake, not for a deliberate or careless confusion, but for a mistake.

There is a better way to admit a mistake, but at the same time let it go. Here’s how:

1. Put the error into perspective.

After you make an obvious mistake at work, you may want to be swallowed up by the earth to save you the embarrassment, shame, and anxiety of running into your co-workers again.

If these worries keep you awake at night, challenge those thoughts by becoming more realistic in your thinking, suggests Shannon Garcia, a psychotherapist at Healthy lifestyle advice in Illinois and Wisconsin.

“End of the world? No, she said. “Are you fired? Very unlikely. Will you receive constructive feedback from your boss? May be. Will you be uncomfortable admitting your mistake? Probably. Have you survived past mistakes? It looks like it if you’re reading this. Will you survive in this? Yes!”

Sometimes accidental missteps harm your work, but it is important to avoid catastrophic consequences of what happened.

“Of course it caused a delay. Yes, it may have cost the company money. Okay, this has had a negative impact on productivity. But is this really the end of your career? Really? Probably not,” Ranger said. “Reducing things to their correct size, rather than ignoring/suppressing, and not inflating or exaggerating, is an important part of letting things go.”

If it helps, try to put yourself in the shoes of colleagues who have also made mistakes. Once you see the compassion and empathy you have for their mistakes, you may be more inclined to have compassion for your own.

“When a colleague made a mistake in the past, did you strongly judge him for it? Have you spent the day thinking endlessly about their mistake? No. People at work probably react the same way,” Garcia said. “No one thinks about it more than you.”

2. Know that you don’t need to beat yourself up as a penance.

To overcome a mistake, you also need to rethink what it means to learn from mistakes. If you’re thinking about how you could improve your interactions with your boss, for example, take a deep breath. Give yourself permission to let go of these thoughts, advises an organizational psychologist. Laura Gallagher consulting firm Gallagher Edge.

People meditate because they believe that such intense anxiety is paying off; they think, “A conscientious person would worry about that,” Gallagher said.

“When you know that you can be both a conscious person and also forgive yourself in order to move forward, it will be easier for you to do so.”

More than anything, Garcia says to her clients, “Be kind to yourself,” she said. Reframe your worries in a more positive light.

“The fact that you care about it means that you care. This is what your boss, colleagues and clients care about the most,” Garcia said. “Try not to beat yourself up about it. Create an affirmation to repeat to yourself whenever these negative thoughts about yourself come up: “I accept my mistake, I choose to learn from it, and I move forward.”

If you’re stuck in a “could/should” world about your mistake, be honest with yourself about what you didn’t know.

Ranger says he’s working with some clients, asking them to think about why they “should have known better.” “It’s always so tempting to impose our current knowledge and the wisdom of a past version of ourselves that couldn’t make that decision with the information we had at the time,” she said.

3. Don’t hide the mistake. Accept what happened, but don’t take on other people’s judgment.

When you make a serious mistake at work, you may instinctively want to shut down, suppress it, and forget it ever happened.

If you feel like leaving, challenge yourself to do the opposite. Be the first to bring up this issue with your co-workers or boss.

“If it made them uncomfortable, apologize for it,” Garcia said. “Then it’s a conversation you’re in, people will probably be accommodating and everyone can move on.”

It may seem counterintuitive, but being open about your mistake and its consequences can be healing. “It can be like taking a cold shower — before you do it, you get scared of it and feel restless or anxious,” Gallagher explained. “When you are open, it may seem uncomfortable at first, but once it’s over, you will actually feel more refreshed 99% of the time. It’s best to take responsibility without blaming anyone.”

Once you become a role model for openness and accountability, it can encourage others to do the same. “Most of the time when you lead with self-accountability, that vulnerability comes out in courage, and courage is contagious: people usually respond with their own responsibility as well,” Gallagher said.

Of course, sometimes being honest about a mistake can also lead to harsh judgment and harsh criticism from mean-spirited co-workers. You should hold yourself responsible for your mistake, but you don’t have to take the judgment of your peers.

“Let them know what you intend to do differently to try and prevent it from happening in the future, and then accept that they may or may not move on. It’s out of your control,” Ranger said. “Taking on other people’s emotions is bad for you and prevents you from treating yourself with the kindness and compassion you deserve.”


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