Beating Yourself Up is Not a Good Learning Strategy


Everyone makes mistakes, and most people know that the most mature way to deal with them is to own up to the foible, apologize to the parties involved, and learn as much as you can from it so that you don’t find yourself in the same situation again.  But here’s another piece of advice you seldom hear.

Stop Beating Yourself Up

A few weeks ago, I accidentally made a huge, work-related blunder.  I realized what I did immediately after it happened and called my colleague on the project.   After taking responsibility and expressing my remorse, I proceeded to berate myself…for an hour.   I moaned about how I couldn’t believe I could do such a thing when I warn clients and readers against it every day.  My colleague said that it would be okay, really, but I just went on and on.  My kids were in bed and my husband was out of town, so after I hung up the phone, I locked myself in my room and put a pillow over my head like the world was ending.

An Expectation of Perfection

It later occurred to me that the reason I’d had such an extreme reaction is that I expected myself to be perfect and assumed that mistakes only happened to other people – never to me.  I let it undermine my self-confidence and also my colleague’s confidence in me.  In reality, the colleague probably didn’t think I was that bad until I insisted on taking the blame for all of the world’s tribulations.


You Can’t Always Play it Safe

Blunders are part of the universal human experience and you can’t expect to get away scot-free.  In fact, the more you put yourself out there and try to do meaningful things, the more likely you are to make a mistake.   And when one inevitably occurs, do the proper accounting, and then give yourself a break.  You’ll feel better, and the other people involved will too.

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