Many people fixate on failures, mistakes, and previous experiences that keep them stuck feeling bad about themselves. Whether it be dating that jerk for far too long, not making the grade on the big test, or rejecting the job offer that sounded too good to be true, all these things happened for a reason. These experiences are not failures. Confident and secure people have something in common, they turn their mistakes into amazing learning opportunities and grow from them.
There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go. — Richard Bach
Admit to Mistakes in Order to Learn
You can only learn from a mistake after you admit you’ve made it. As soon as you start blaming other people (or the world), you distance yourself from any possible lesson. Whether you tell yourself or someone else “I totally messed up,” or “I realize in the past I should have done X instead of Y,” the possibilities for learning will come. Admission of a mistake, even if only privately to yourself, moves you from blame to awareness.
After the end of a relationship, I was focused on the failure. “What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently, better? . . .” you get it. For months I made myself sick with the “what ifs.” But the painful reality was the relationship taught me so much about myself and the failure was actually an awesome learning experience.
I learned how I contributed to the breakup but also what I deserved in a future relationship. I learned to sit with my emotions and understand (or attempt to figure out) why they were so intense. I also became more aware, and grateful, for the people in my life who were so supportive and special, ones I was unable to see when I was immersed in the downward spiral of my relationship.
Even months after the awareness set in, I often had to remind myself of what I was learning and who I was becoming. It is a process, one that taught me more self-respect and allowed me to feel more confident with myself and what I wanted in a future partner. The mistake of staying with this partner for far too long was actually an amazing learning opportunity; I realized how afraid I was of being alone.
Focus on the Learning Opportunity, Not the Mistake
If you focus on the mistakes and not the learning experience you are keeping yourself stuck in the process of feeling bad, not good. Once I was able to come to terms with my insecurity and get honest, I was able to get to work on making this mistake only happen once, rather than taking it into other areas of my life. Here are some questions to ask yourself. You can even write down and answer them (as it often helps you on a deeper level). These will help you make perceived mistakes opportunities for self-growth.
- What did I learn about myself from this experience?
- How will this experience help me in the future?
- How can forgive myself for the experience? Can I be gentler or kinder to myself, if so, how?
- What information could have helped me avoid the mistake?
- What small mistakes, in sequence, contributed to the bigger mistake or lesson learned?
- Are there alternatives I could have considered?
- What can I change so I avoid making this mistake again? What kinds of change are difficult for me?
- How will my behavior change if I’m in a similar situation from now on?
This process may be really hard and challenging but the more you try, the more you learn. If you need the help of a friend, coach or therapist to help you, now is the time. They may be able to help you see the mistakes or thinking patterns that keep you stuck. Don’t let any more mistakes feel like failures, make them amazing learning opportunities for self growth and confidence.
Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.