Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Letting mistakes bring you down is a big happiness buster. When you make them a motivation to go forward, they bring more satisfaction to your world instead of making you feel like a loser for not doing things perfectly. Cut yourself slack and smile! This article originally appeared in Volume 2, Issue 4 of my free Self-Empowerment Quarterly newsletter. If you’d like to subscribe send your name, and city/state to

Making Your Mistakes Count
Brandi Chastain plays soccer. In 1999 she accidentally scored a goal in the wrong net. The other team got the point. This wasn’t just any old game. It was the quarterfinals for the Women’s World Cup. Did Brandi sulk and ask to get taken out of the game? No! Did she let it rattle her confidence? No! She let it motivate her to recover and persevere to tie the game, which the U.S. team won.

Lots of people saw Brandi’s mistake. It was a big deal. She could have let embarrassment deflate her and play on her nerves for other games. Because she didn’t, Brandi isn’t remembered for her blunder. Nine days later in the final game, she scored the goal that won the Cup. Brandi proved that mistakes don’t hurt you! You hurt you when you respond to them in ways that negatively affect what you do later.

Brandi says, “It’s what your do after the mistakes that counts.” You can deal with one and move on, or dwell on embarrassment and let it make you feel incompetent. Mistakes can teach you what you have to do differently, if you keep them in perspective and not let them make you question your competency or feel inadequate. You choose whether to let a goof hurt you or to cut yourself slack and get back on track. Become more conscious of your reaction to mistakes.

* Don’t insult yourself. If you keep referring to yourself as an idiot or stupid, you’ll eventually believe it. Don’t use words that you wouldn’t use on your best friend if she made a mistake. How often do you tell a friend, “You’re an idiot and should be punished?” Yet we call ourselves names and punish ourselves. Allow a kinder perception of what you did. You goofed, not screwed up. You’re silly, not an idiot or loser. Pay attention to your self-perception and choose a kinder outlook.

* Don’t blow what you did out of proportion. It’s common to magnify faults and drag out misery by rehashing what you did in your mind. It’s a mistake, not a sin! Don’t make it more than it is. If people say it’s no big deal, accept that it’s no big deal. It’s done—you can only do what’s necessary to be fix it, without making it a catastrophe.

* No more “should haves”! Saying “I should have…” makes you feel wrong. It does you no good to look back and think about how you wish you could change what you can’t change. Your mistake is over. Look ahead!

* Let it go quickly. Every day you hold onto guilt or blame or horror of a past action is another day you’re punished unnecessarily. That damages your spirit. Don’t hold yourself to a higher standard than your friends. You don’t punish them, so why punish you? List all your feelings – anger, inconvenience, embarrassment, etc. – read it aloud, and then burn it. That helps let it go.

* Forgive YOU. You can’t do this while beating yourself up. Forgive you for being human and imperfect. Until you forgive, you can’t let it go. Be loving to you!

* Learn to laugh at yourself. Don’t put yourself down but laugh when you goof up. Say oops if you forget something. Allow yourself to feel the humor instead of gritting teeth and feeling stupid. If you trip and fall with people watching, ask how many points you get. Learn to find humor in mistakes to lighten them.

* Remember that most people are supportive. Others don’t judge us nearly as harshly as we judge ourselves. They don’t want you to feel bad and aren’t gleeful if you do something wrong. Most mistakes aren’t important to others. And those who don’t feel bad for you won’t feel good for you when you succeed so who cares about them!

* Be open to reassurance from others. When people try to say nice things after you goof, do you scoff them off or minimize their kind words? Don’t! Everyone goofs and knows how lousy it feels so they want to make you feel better. Allow them to.

* Do affirmations to reassure yourself. ”I’m a winner.” “I’m not my mistakes and can do things well.” Saying affirmations helps heal bruised confidence and facilitates moving on. They also drown out negative thoughts since it’s hard to think both at once.

* Look for lessons and be more conscious / careful in the future. What can you do differently? If you didn’t prepare enough for a presentation, prepare more. If you goofed because you’re tired, try to rest more. And if it was an accident that you broke something or tripped, accept that accidents happen and you can only do your best.

Cut yourself slack if you fail your perfection standards! When you focus on imperfections, they become bigger than they are and distract you from good qualities. You can balance what you don’t have with your strengths.

Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot…and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Don’t let mistakes take you out. Conquer them instead! Keep what you did in perspective. Ask yourself if it will matter ten, or even one year from now. The faster you let it go, the less damage to your confidence. Never forget that everyone makes mistakes – that’s being human. It’s how you let them affect you – or not – that counts. Make sure that your main perception is how terrific and talented you are!

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