"Making mistakes is just awful! People must think that I am not very smart. Everyone wonders why I did it." These may be the thoughts that go through your head when you make a mistake.

"Making mistakes is just awful! People must think that I am not very smart. Everyone wonders why I did it." These may be the thoughts that go through your head when you make a mistake.


It is hard to accept making a mistake, isn't it? If this is the kind of thinking you do maybe you need to reconsider the way you look at your mistakes.


Usually the person that can't tolerate your mistakes the most is you! People often use this negative self-talk when they make a mistake and assume that everyone thinks as they do. How do you feel when someone else makes a mistake? Do you condemn them and criticize or do you accept that it can happen to anyone? If you are like most people you expect people to do something the wrong way some of the time. So why are we harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else?


It is acceptable to have high standards for yourself. It makes you a better person. You should strive for excellence in yourself. But if you are a perfectionist you have set the bar so high that no one can get over it. Even you!


Perhaps instead of criticizing ourselves we should celebrate mistakes. Mistakes mean that we are trying. They mean that we have taken risks with no guarantee of the outcome. The most important aspect of mistakes is the opportunity for learning a better way of doing something.


Making no mistakes means that you are always playing it safe. This would not be a very rewarding life since, while avoiding mistakes, we can't enjoy our victories. Mistakes are meant to be managed. Below are some guidelines for managing mistakes:


• Accept yourself: As a human being you are going to make some mistakes.


• Learn to laugh at yourself: Don't take yourself so seriously. Nobody expects you to be perfect.


• Use mistakes as learning tools: People do not learn from doing everything right. They learn by changing a strategy or behavior that did not work by changing to a new behavior.


• Keep taking risks: Even if you don't succeed at something keep challenging yourself to grow.


• Don't generalize: Don't turn one mistake into a label that you use to describe who you are as a person. If you fail at something it does not mean you are a failure.


• Don't avoid: Don't use avoidance to eliminate the possibility of failure. It decreases your confidence for trying anything.


David Gannon, Ph.D., Psychological and Family Consultants, Canton, Ohio.