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Mindful Tip #22: Hung up on a Mistake? Shift from Self-Criticism to Self-Compassion

Mindful Tip 22 Make a Mistake

“I wish I’d have known about mindfulness years ago.”

I can’t tell you how often I hear this from people who take the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course. They yearn to re-do part of life with greater respect for the present moment, whether they ran a business, worked full-time while raising a family, or went to grad school and had a heck of a time focusing.

I, too, wish I knew about mindfulness earlier in life. In particular, I wish I’d known about mindfulness as a collegiate softball player. Looking back, I can see countless times when a lack of training in mindfulness compromised my performance and undermined my ability to bounce back from mistakes.

For example, when I didn’t perform well offensively, I would get myself in a tailspin, fixating on what went wrong and shaming myself for ‘underperforming.’ Sounds like a winning strategy, doesn’t it? Well, I didn’t stop there. I would go on to spend almost the entire time before my next at-bat sulking and thinking about how to make sure I didn’t make the same mistake again.

Remember what I said about ruminating not setting us up for success? Hindsight is 20/20. All I know is that I missed a lot of innings – more realistically, ballgames – throughout my softball career by holding on to these ‘egregious’ errors. I also made a lot of silly mistakes simply because I wasn’t paying attention. I’d swing at junk pitches or let a slow-rolling ball slide under my legs in the outfield – all of which translated to feeling more out of control and more down on myself.

Mistakes are bound to happen in performance-related endeavors. The question is, do we recover? How we relate to ourselves in the aftermath of a mistake has a lot to do with how well we recover. Are we forgiving and fair toward ourselves? Do we practice self-compassion – giving ourselves space to be both imperfect and upset about not being perfect? Or, do we unabashedly criticize ourselves for ‘failing,’ and in turn, dwell on the mistake for hours, days, potentially weeks at a time?

You might think back to a recent mistake… How were you with yourself after the fact? Did you relate to yourself with an open, fair, and caring mind? Or, did you attack yourself for not getting it right? If the latter jumps out at you, what do you think holds you back from taking it a little easier on yourself?

Breon Michel

About Breon

Mindfulness teacher, compassionate community leader, entrepreneur, writer, stress reduction aficionado, hope igniter, adventure seeker, mountain biker, devoted to others