Taking things personally

Picture the scene. You're trying to park your car in a tight space and you press the accelerator a bit too hard, maybe thinking it's the brake, and bang! You've smashed the headlight of the car behind and you begin to think of the insurance and practical implications of this error. Or you could just drive off as no one saw and deal with whatever that means later?

There is a decision to be made. You could leave the scene and wipe away the guilt and shame of admitting responsibility for this error. Or you could do the right thing and accept that you made a mistake and all the associated emotional baggage that comes with this. What a hard thing to take on. A double-whammy of self-hatred and blame; who wouldn't want to just drive away?

However, just because you take responsibility that you made a mistake doesn't mean that you are a bad person or wrong in some way. You don't have to feel those negative self-hating emotions because of the error you made. I know you've heard it said a thousand times but it's true: we all make mistakes. The reason that you may be feeling this way is that you're self-esteem is not robust enough to cope with self-criticism. This is where counselling can help.

What we can do about it

Your counsellor can help you to realise that there is an alternative to blame.  When we feel the shame and guilt associated with making a mistake it may seem like there's nothing we can do. But we can start making a change in the way we view ourselves and our actions that can slowly build up our self-confidence to be ready for situations like this.

We are not our mistakes, we are not our errors, we are more than that.

As Frederick Imbo discusses in his brilliant Ted Talk 'How not to take things personally', if we find that we are at fault for an action (which in this example I think we can agree that we are), the last thing we all deserve is to be blasted with more criticism at a time when we're already feeling very low and vulnerable. 

We need a hug *which at the time of writing might be more metaphorical than literal. We need to give ourselves a reassuring squeeze to remember who we really are. We are not our mistakes, we are not our errors, we are more than that. We are amazing people on a journey through life where mistakes are as inevitable as the successes we enjoy.

A skilled counsellor can help you to realise your value as a person independent of your mistakes or what people say about you. As Frederick rightly says "Whatever they do or say, you will always keep your value." Whatever your partner, your family, your friends, the other driver says about the mistake that you just made, you will always keep your value. A counsellor can help you to remember this and keep it close. It's something to hold onto when you need it most.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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