What to do if you’re embarrassed or make a mistake

My friend recently did something a bit embarrassing. For the last few weeks, it’s been bugging them to no end. They would recurrently remember, feel guilt, feel ashamed, give themselves remonstrations, and the cycle would keep repeating.

We spoke about this, and I thought I’d share the advice more generally:

Whenever you make a mistake, I think two things happen:

1) You over-fixate on yourself, like that action you took is all that matters in the world.

2) You start giving yourself highly critical and mean self talk

For 1), Try to get out of your head.

Do something nice for another person. Remember that, at the end of the day, even with the worst possible thing for you, it’s just some small part of somebody’s life. Most things are inconsequential

For 2), Imagine your self-talk turned into another person.

You see this person, and tell them an embarrassing story. They say “Oh, that’s horrible. No good person would do that — you are a bad person. Everyone knows now”. If another person said this, wouldn’t you think they were weird and mean?

What if instead they said: “You know, I know you felt scared there. It’s okay — most people have gone through this. It’s going to be tough, but you’ve got this. At the end of the day, you know you are a good person, everything is okay, and you will do the right thing”

Now, that sounds like someone who’s truly supporting you, and is seeing a more holistic perspective.

Train your mind gradually, to speak to you as a reasonable, kind person.

The way I do this:

Anytime I sense a cycle of negative thoughts, I open up a notebook and write them all down. Then I start critiquing and fighting back, as if someone else said those things. Eventually, you start internalizing it, and the fighting back happens immediately

Funny side note: as you do this more, some people will see you differently, in good and bad ways. When someone hears “Oh, yeah, I lost this much last month, made this mistake, but yeah, meant for greatness over here, so no worries”, they may think you have a bit of an ego — which may be true 😂