top of page

Embracing Mistakes and Quieting Your Inner Critic

Regrettably, many of us have been conditioned to believe that our worth and value hinge on our accomplishments or how flawlessly we can present ourselves to others. As a consequence, we frequently find ourselves comparing and harshly judging our actions against an ideal standard, often magnifying minor mistakes into monumental failures. This cycle is prevalent and relentless in the pursuit of perfection which leaves little room for the full human experience. To honor one's humanity means embracing and acknowledging that mistakes are simply part of being human.


Poet Nikki Giovanni once said, “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts”.


Despite the multitude of quotes and philosophies advocating for the importance of embracing our mistakes, many of us grapple with an inner critic that refuses to be silenced and an idealized version of ourselves that seems unattainable. This lack of tolerance for mistakes, and one’s very humanness, can result in emotional distress and self-sabotage when inevitably we encounter with one’s own flaws or navigate a new experience.


By learning how to be tolerant, open and resilient towards mistakes, a person can tame their inner critic and better align with the sentiment that Oscar Wilde so eloquently put: “experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”



1. Increase Tolerance: 

Tolerance means to increase our capacity to endure something. A key to taming our inner critic and embracing mistakes is accepting that mistakes not only happen, but that they are necessary for ongoing growth and self reflection. In therapy, a therapist will often refer to a “window of tolerance”; one’s optimal emotional state in which a person can function most effectively. One way to increase your tolerance towards mistakes is by first accepting responsibility and reducing the impulse to blame others or minimize the experience. Tolerating mistakes is accepting it, learning from it and recognizing ways you can continue to progress having experienced it.


2. Embrace new experiences:

“If you push yourself to learn new things and stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone, mistakes are inevitable. They are also opportunities to learn. Rather than feeling embarrassed, defensive, or becoming overly self-critical, a successful person is open to making mistakes and receiving constructive criticism from others.” (1) Remembering that your identity and value are not based on or changed by a mistake. We as humans must remain just that, human. When we can honor that mistakes are part of our learning process and help us to identify and expand on potential solutions, we can become less distressed. Open up to the idea that there is power in discovering the answers (which may include trial and error) instead of expecting ourselves to know the answers without having cultivated new, challenging, or different experiences. 


3. Reframe and Refocus:

When we “reframe mistakes as “results” instead of failures” (1) it challenges us to have a growth mindset. A growth mindset is one where we are open to gleaning new information and lessons to support forward change and to reach goals. We often teach the power of the word “yet”-- a word filled with potential and progress that encourages us to keep growing. The most harmful part of making mistakes is not the mistake itself, but attaching the mistake to our self-worth/value. There is a key difference between making a mistake and believing that we are a mistake. Identify your mistake as a problem that can be solved, not an attack on yourself or the value you bring to the world. 


Below are examples of self-affirming statements to challenge your inner critic and reframe your thoughts following a mistake: 


  • “Even though I’ve made mistakes in the past, I’m still a good person.” 

  • “Because I am human, I am not perfect and that is beautiful.” 

  • “I accept who I am.” 

  • “I’m a good person, and I can make mistakes.” 

  • “I am valuable even though I am not perfect”

  • “I do the best I can every day.” 


We limit our capacity for growth when we lean on a belief that we must be free of mistakes. It takes courage and effort to embrace life as trial and error. Working with a therapist can help support you in your efforts to honor your humanness and embrace new experiences that help you flourish and grow past the criticism and mistakes that keep you in your comfort zone.


Till next time,

Aimee Strange, LPCC 14132


Resource

27 views

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page