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Making mistakes is a normal part of life. Taking responsibility and facing up to our mistakes is a great way to learn, and to avoid doing the same thing again. But if you’re dwelling on your mistakes and it’s getting you down, there are things you can do.

This can help if:

  • you’re stressed about a mistake you made
  • you want to know how to stop dwelling on your mistakes
  • you want to learn from your mistakes.
Male counselor with student

Learning from our mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, both big and small. Did you do poorly on an exam because you didn’t study enough? Did you hurt a friend’s feelings by saying the wrong thing? Or maybe you left the shower on and flooded your bathroom. I bet you won’t do that again. We all need to make these kinds of mistakes in order to learn from them.

Sometimes, however, the mistakes we make are more serious, and more complicated. It may also take us longer to learn from them and to change our ways. The most important thing in these instances is to learn how to accept what’s happened and move forward, rather than dwell on the past.

Accepting our mistakes

Fortunately, there are some handy tips to help us deal with screwing up.

You are not your mistake

When you make a mistake, keep in mind that it doesn’t mean anything about who you are as a person. Try not to jump to conclusions about your worth or value. No one’s perfect, and that’s okay.

Be honest with yourself and others

When you screw up, don’t hide the fact and don’t try to sugar-coat it. Even though it’s often a really difficult thing to do, it’s important that you accept full responsibility for your actions.

The sooner you fess up, the sooner you can get yourself back on track. If you’re making excuses for yourself, you’ll probably just prolong this process.

Recognise exactly what you did wrong

Are you aware of exactly what went wrong? If you’re confused about something, it’s worth having a chat to someone else who’s involved so that you’re totally sure of what not to do next time.

Think about ways you might be able to fix or improve the situation

So, you stuffed up. Now what? If possible, have a think about some of the conversations you could have, or things you could do, to improve the situation. You might find that you can smooth some things over and that it’s not as bad as you initially thought.

Talk about it with others

When you make a really big mistake, don’t feel that you have to cope with it on your own. Talk to friends or family about it. They might be able to offer you some encouragement, insights or advice that will make you feel better.

Can’t stop dwelling on your mistakes?

If you’ve tried doing these things, and you’re having a lot of trouble accepting your mistakes and moving on, there might be something else going on at a deeper level. Start off by having a chat to someone you trust. You could also go and see a counsellor or a mental health professional. They’ll be able to help you get to the bottom of whatever’s bothering you.

What can I do now?