How to Stop Exaggerating Your Small Mistakes

How to Stop Exaggerating Your Small Mistakes

Do you ever feel that every tiny mistake you make is a life-ruining, colossal failure? 

Does your mind like to blow your mistakes out of proportion and make them seem way more significant that the actually are? It's like deep down you know it's not a big deal but you just can't stop worrying about it for the rest of the day.

Are you obsessively ruminating over past conflicts that make you feel like a lesser human being? 

First of all, what you're doing is perfectly normal. We all do that to some extent. Everybody has some past mistake that they perceive to be earth-shattering when in fact it's not.

However, if you're doing this all the time, then chances are your anxiety is distorting your reality.

Exaggerating Your Mistakes

Anxiety has several tricks to mess with your perception of the world in some very profound ways. These tricks are called cognitive distortions.

If you have a tendency to see your minor mistakes as catastrophic personal failures then you're experiencing a cognitive distortion called exaggeration or magnification.

According to Wikipedia, magnification is when

"you give proportionately greater weight to a perceived failure, weakness or threat, or lesser weight to a perceived success, strength or opportunity."

So basically if you keep blowing negative things out of proportion... and belittling or ignoring positive things, you're distorting your reality.

And as I mentioned before, that's okay. We all do that sometimes. In fact, we have a word for people who constantly exaggerate that way: we call them humble.

But when you start thinking that way all the time... when you develop a habit of belittling your achievements... and exaggerating your mistakes, that's when you start to have problems.

Tony Schwartz, the brilliant co-author of the book "The Power Of Full Engagement" says

"What you practice, you become better at."

If you keep doing something all the time, then that's what you're inevitably going to get better at, right? 

Well, what do you think happens if you keep magnifying your mistakes all the time and understating your positive characteristics? 

That's right, you're going to develop a thinking habit of automatically assuming that whatever positive characteristics you might have simply cannot be true, while your negative characteristics will seem enormous and overwhelming. 

Essentially, this habit of thinking can change your view of the world. And not just your world view but also your self-image

In fact, the biggest problem with exaggeration is that it ultimately distorts your self-image. It will make you think less of yourself - and what's worse; with time you're going to believe that you're actually a lesser human being, some kind of a wimp, a failure that just doesn't deserve anything. 

Magnifying your mistakes creates a biased world view where everything seems to be more negative somehow. Negative events seem much worse than they really are and positive events lose their significance. In some cases they're completely off the radar

When you're exaggerating, you're not only being unfair to yourself, you're also hurting your self-esteem by distorting your self-image. 

How to Stop Exaggerating Your Mistakes

You've already made the first step to stop magnifying your past mistakes. You've become aware of what it is that you're doing and you know that it's not good for you.

Next, I want to share with you four of my best techniques to help you stop yourself from exaggerating your mistakes and ignoring your achievements. 

  1. Catch yourself doing it. You need to learn to catch yourself in the act before you can do anything about it. And perhaps more importantly, immediately forgive yourself after you notice that you're exaggerating your mistakes. People who live with anxiety have a tendency to be their own worst critics. I want you to be gentle on yourself and come from a place of understanding and acceptance. Just notice that you feel that your past mistakes are enormous... and know that it's probably not true. 
  2. Compare yourself to others. Think of other people that you love and care about that have made similar mistakes. In fact, try to think of people who have made even bigger mistakes than what you're worrying about. And then notice that you still love them and that for the most part, you don't care at all that they screwed up. And then notice that you're not being fair to yourself. You're being much harder on yourself than you are on people around you.
  3. Get some outside perspective. Talk to someone outside the situation. Get some positive feedback that you didn't screw up so badly. Talking to people can really help drive a wedge into your inaccurate perception of reality. Making sure you always have people who can give you some reassurance is probably the best way to snap out of your "worst critic" mode. 
  4. Talk back to yourself. Lay the situation out in your head and whenever you feel the exaggeration coming on, give yourself a swift metaphorical wake-up slap. Keep straightening out your thoughts and notice how distorted your perception of the situation has been.  

The next time your mind starts replaying all your past mistakes to you to remind you what a terrible person you are, try some of these techniques. They'll help you unclog your brain, relax and patch up your self-image.

Closing Thoughts

I want to close today's post with a profound quote from Steve Maraboli:

"We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future."

Your mistakes are the seed of your own personal growth. Michael Jordan once said:

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Mistakes are opportunities of learning and of growth and should be celebrated and nurtured. Mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before. 

So if anything, welcome your mistakes and learn from them because they'll reward you with wisdom and greatness

That's all for today guys, I hope you found this post valuable. If you have something to add or if you have any related question, share it in the comment section below and I'll get back to you as fast as I can!

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