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Why making mistakes can be good for us.

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

Living in today’s society can be hard. All around us we are constantly confronted with images and messages of success, perfection and an idealistic portrayal of the world. Social media draws us in, using models to sell brands, influencers telling us ‘how easy it is to get ahead’ and every second person on the Internet seemingly having their life together. Our Facebook and Instagram news feeds fill with streams and messages of new homeowners, proud parents, incredible proposals and celebrations of promotions. It isn’t until we come across the extremes that we see content containing mistakes or negative outcomes – and more often than not these are now turned into ‘”funny fails” videos or a meme. But is this perfect outlook on the world realistic? Or do we have a lot to learn from our mistakes too?

Many of us are guilty of only posting our best life on social media. We want to show the world how fun, successful and happy we are. Very rarely do we broadcast our bad days or share when we’re feeling down and things aren’t going our way. We celebrate this ideal lifestyle to such an extent that talking about our mistakes or shortcomings becomes almost a taboo subject, best to be avoided. But perhaps this is exactly the topic of conversation we need to be having. Mistakes are a crucial and regular part of life. They help us to learn and grow, providing us with a direction forward or a greater understanding of how to improve. In truth we all make mistakes, some big and others small. Sharing these or other negative experiences with another can help to lighten the burden and gain a new perspective – as often we are not alone in experiencing these undesirable responses.

So why then do we worry so much about making mistakes? If mistakes can be good for us, why do we shy away from them, hoping to avoid them at all cost? Perhaps it is the fear of feeling vulnerable – of being exposed to criticism and putting our pride on the line to admit something didn’t’ work or went wrong? How we respond to making a mistake can greatly shape our experience and our outlook moving forward. One thing that can influence this reaction is the feedback we receive. Giving and receiving feedback can help us to further understand what didn’t work this time around, but also what we can do to ensure a different end result next time – constructive feedback vs. criticism. While criticising highlights the negative, constructive feedback can illuminate the positive and encourage us to try again.

Many of us live in fear of criticism. No one likes to hear that their best wasn’t good enough or have their weaknesses exposed for others to see. Criticism can dive into what went wrong, highlighting our shortcomings and how that has reflected outwardly. In this case we are often left disheartened and unwilling to try again in apprehension of a similar result occurring. This is where constructive feedback can help to change our perception on making mistakes, emboldening us to give it another go or carry on. Constructive feedback, or positive criticism can help to identify our strengths – highlighting what did go well, while providing us with a direction forward for next time. It reassures us that we haven’t failed, and while a mistake may be a setback, we can learn a lot from the experience, helping us to be successful or achieve in our endeavour next time.

So next time you find yourself having made a mistake, take a moment to step back and breathe. As much as we are falsely led to believe it, nobody is perfect and mistakes are a natural part of life. As Thomas Edison was quoted saying in response to his unsuccessful attempt at creating the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Instead of bringing yourself down, celebrate what did go well and look at how to improve for the future.

Read more about why we should look to live a 'balanced' lifestyle.

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