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Making Friends with Making Mistakes

I drowned my phone in a pool and dropped my computer at work, both in the same month.

During the phone incident, I felt embarrassed as I watched a friend fish it out from the bottom of her pool. The computer debacle happened at work. I set my bag down on my desk and it toppled over, shattering my MacBook screen. That time I was angry. Angry at my bag, the desk, and any other inanimate object that could receive my blame.

I also blamed myself for being so stupid as to put the bag down in a way that it could fall over. Expensive little “mistakes” to make, but that’s what they were, mistakes.

While I realize that these types of errors happen to people every day, they don’t happen to me! I am very conscientious and take care of my belongings. I remember thinking that these types of mistakes are beneath me.

How arrogant!!!!

Yet there’s some truth to it.

Being Overly Cautious

I tend to be overly cautious about my belongings and take care of them like they are national treasures. Being hyper-vigilant affords me many headache-free days, but when I do break something or loose things, I go into a full shame spiral and beat myself up. I even went so far as to punish myself for dropping my smartphone by not buying a new one for a month and using an old version.

I realized that I avoid taking risks like they’re the bubonic plague. When something does happen that is a careless error or even worse, something outside of my control, I tend to blame inward, (that is, of course, after I stop yelling at my leather bag for falling over). I might want to blame another person to make myself feel better, but I tend to go after the person who I can control the most – me.

Stopping the Self-Blame Cycle

I imagine that I’m not alone in this course of self-blame. Where other people tend to roll with the punches, I tend to over-focus on how the error occurred so it doesn’t happen again.

Yes, this does prevent many silly mistakes from recurring, but boy do I wind myself up trying to stop problems that may or may not ever occur. Think of the physical tension that must cause, and the ensuing realization that I am literally planning to prevent mistakes from happening – that’s crazy making! By definition, mistakes are made unintentionally. Of course, we don’t plan for them to happen.

So, how do I stop this cycle of berating myself for an average human occurrence before I send myself to the looney bin? I do the one thing that’s hardest to do when I don’t feel good about myself – laugh, take a deep breath, and remind myself it’s arrogant and to think I’m perfect and literally impossible to be it.

While I realize that some of my perfectionist behaviors have brought me an amount of success, they are also the exact thing that causes my anxiety to go off like rockets in my brain.

On the bright side, sometimes making mistakes also has good outcomes. Who doesn’t want a new phone and a new computer? I am certainly enjoying my new toys.

Making Friends with Making Mistakes

Hope Arnold

Hope is a Radically Open DBT Senior Clinician and 1-day trainer for Radically Open LTD organization. As a self identified overcontrolled person, she works to help her clients learn to relax, take themselves less seriously and be the person they want to be. Perfectionism, anxiety, rigidity, detailed focus, risk aversion and loneliness are some of the areas that overcontrolled people struggle to navigate. In her writing Hope uses humor and real life stories to help overcontrolled individuals make the changes that will bring happiness to their lives. Hope is licensed as a LCSW in Colorado, Texas, and Virginia. She has a private practice in Denver, Colorado.

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APA Reference
Arnold, H. (2018). Making Friends with Making Mistakes. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Mar 2018
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