You Messed Up. Now What?
When you make a mistake, do you let it slide—or do you spend hours worrying about it later, wondering what you should have done differently? If you’re more than a little concerned about making errors, you’re not alone, according to a recent Dutch study. The researchers found that certain people—usually perfectionists with excessively high standards—fear the shame and embarrassment of making a mistake so much that they tend to do whatever they can to insulate themselves against negative feedback.
Trouble is, by not exposing yourself to doing something wrong, you’re missing out on the chance to learn constructively from feedback, says Andrea Bonior, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington, DC. You also take fewer risks, which means you might have fewer failures, but you also may have fewer big wins.
Sound familiar? Here are three times you're likely to mess up—and how to make your inner perfectionist okay with that.
A mistake at work:If you’re obsessive about not slipping up at work, it’s easy to jump to “I’m going to lose my job!” To quash these pink slip fears, avoid engaging in black-and-white thinking, says Bonior. Instead, reassure yourself that everyone makes mistakes and that whatever you did is likely quite fixable. Then, own up to the gaffe with your supervisor by explaining the mistakeandhow you propose to remedy it. Your boss will view you as a proactive problem-solver for coming to her with a solution.
A mistake with your partner:You forget your anniversary...again. Instantly you're thinking about how upset he'll be with you. "I'm so careless," you think. "Will he finally end it?" Cop to your misdeed—and then admit that you need reassurance, says Bonior. Say something like, “I know I made a mistake, but I’ll be better about learning from my mistake in the future if you reassure me that this isn’t going to end our relationship.”
A mistake with your child:No matter how wonderful of a job you’re doing as a parent, if you yell at your child, you have to apologize—even if it makes you uncomfortable, says Bonior. Try something like, “I’m sorry I yelled at you. I had a frustrating day, but I shouldn’t have lost my temper.” But a word of caution: be sure you don't unburden yourself to a child as you would to an adult (for example, “You wouldn't believe what I'm going through, my boss makes me miserable!”). Your goal: To keep the 'fessing up as simple, succinct, and honest as possible—and to set a good example for your child to accept and forgive errors.
Video: so you've messed up | lucy moon
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