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How to Stop Beating Yourself Up for Mistakes at Work

What's the most stressful thing that ever happened to you at work? If you're like most of us, making a mistake is at least in the top five. The problem, of course, is that there's no way to avoid messing up at some point. As the saying goes, if you never make mistakes, you're not working hard enough. The real challenge is to learn how to be kinder to yourself afterward, and set yourself up for future success.

What’s the most stressful thing that ever happened to you at work? If you’re like most of us, making a mistake is at least in the top five. The problem, of course, is that there’s no way to avoid messing up at some point. As the saying goes, if you never make mistakes, you’re not working hard enough. The real challenge is to learn how to be kinder to yourself afterward, and set yourself up for future success.

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(Photo Credit: JoelMontes/Flickr)

“Freud defined shame as the fear of loss of love, which leads to being controlled by what others think and say about you,” writes Don Joseph Goewey at The Huffington Post. Goewey goes on to quote Dr. Brene Brown’s assertion that shame is “the fear of disconnection … of being perceived as flawed and unworthy of acceptance or belonging.”

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In other words, you fear loss of your colleagues’ respect (and possibly even your job) so you beat yourself up — which then, in turn, undermines your confidence and saps your energy, making it harder to do your best work.

Knowing that this sort of self-flagellation is inefficient at best and counterproductive at worst is only the first step toward adopting healthier behaviors.

1. Reframe.

When you make a mistake, do you think “I made a mistake” or “I made a mistake because I’m so stupid”? It’s important to stop yourself before you get to the second, beat-your-self-up statement. Making mistakes doesn’t make you stupid. It doesn’t even make you a person who tends to make that kind of mistake, unless you get so fixated, you can’t think clearly and do a clean postmortem on the problem.

2. Act like you’re your own best friend.

If your brother or mother or best friend made an error, would you jump down their throats and castigate them for it? Hopefully not. Treat yourself as kindly as you would treat another person — someone you loved, whose feelings you valued.

3. Practice.

You won’t break the bad habit of a lifetime in a day or a week. The good and bad news is that you’re human, so chances are, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice being kinder to yourself.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you learned to be kinder to yourself when you make mistakes? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Trey
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Trey

Ivan. You’re full of crap

Olga
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Olga

Perhaps one thing that I have to remind myself to do to avoid the impulse of sending the work for approval is:
Change to another task or project, then come back and reread everything, and with a fresh set of eyes see if it is really ready for the final signatue. I personally tend to be impulsive and I have found it to be a negative trait, especially at the time of accuracy,

Bev
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Bev

Thank you so much for this.

Teresa
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Teresa

Ivan is full of shit.

Layaa
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Layaa

Loved this point “Act like you’re your own best friend.” I do have a tough time forgiving myself after a mistake but it just takes me nowhere. I would rather be my own mentor and see myself learn from my mistakes and grow rather than fall further. Thank you so much for this article.

Ivan
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Ivan

Your article is so full of shit.

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