It’s an interesting question, and if you are a like me, it’s hard to take it easy on myself when I forget to do something or forget to call someone. It’s hard for me to not be angry at myself when I make even the slightest mistake at work. I always would prefer to be perfect and do my job perfectly. The truth is I do screw up every once in a while, and when I was a resident physician, this would add to the already high levels of stress I had.
It took me a long time to figure out that I needed to stop beating myself up for every tiny mistake I made and to just let it go. In order to lead a healthier and happier life, we need to be more compassionate with ourselves. In our society, there is this tremendous pressure to be successful and even my will to succeed has always been at a high level. This tremendous pressure to succeed and to “get it right” does not allow for self-compassion.
According to a study done by Journal of Research in Personality, self-compassion is an ability to look at one’s mistakes without being harsh with one’s self. It’s accepting the fact that yes one can indeed screw up sometimes. The key is allowing yourself that space to “goof it up.”
When a person is self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, a person must never judge one’s self too harshly. It isn’t a big surprise to see that self-compassion leads as the study suggests to higher levels of personal well-being and happiness. Self-compassion also leads to lower levels of anxiety and depression.
The next time you drop the ball during a major presentation, I suggest you take it easy on yourself and allow yourself that space to make a mistake. Always remember there will be other presentations or other opportunities that will give you the chance to shine. I would think approaching a “screw-up” this way would increase the probability that you will “knock it out of the park” next time.
Dr. Shah, M.D.