Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself!

I often hear people say “I wish I hadn’t…” or “I wish I had done such and such earlier in my life”. These types of comments are negative self-judgments and they don’t serve any positive purpose in your life. The past is the past. It’s done. Gone. In the rear-view mirror. It can be neither altered nor reclaimed. We often want a ‘do-over’, wishing we could alter a past decision, but of course the reality is that we can’t. Mel Gibson famously remarked that the poor decisions and business failings he had endured were “school fees”, which is to say, he considers that choices made, which didn’t work out favourably, were investments in a greater tomorrow. Lessons from which he learns and sometimes, the expensive misses which lead to far more profitable future decisions.

Castigating yourself for getting something wrong doesn’t help anyone – especially you. In fact, it’s actually counter intuitive because it creates a mindset of failure and shifts your energy from optimism and positivity to a negative, undermining state, which has the potential to trap you and stifle your creativity and boldness when it comes to future decision making.

We all make mistakes – anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar, or, never tries anything! There’s more shame in not trying, than failing, or getting it wrong. Famous rugby league coach Jack Gibson used to say that he liked his players to “make mistakes at a hundred miles an hour” because that meant they were at least ‘having a go’. And he’d rather have players who made mistakes because they were putting in effort, than players who didn’t make mistakes because they were too afraid to chance their hand.

Wisdom is the by-product of experience. You cannot attain “wisdom” through short-cuts. It doesn’t come to the young and it certainly isn’t obtained without trial and error – or making mistakes. A very important lesson is to understand, right now, that THERE IS NO SHAME IN MAKING MISTAKES. Sure, try not repeating them; learn from them and appreciate that life is like school or university, and we are all learning each and every day. More often than not, the most painful lessons are the most important ones.


Another valuable lesson is to accept that mistakes and failures bring us closer to where we need to be. Thomas Edison said; “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.” He is credited with inventing the light bulb, but he didn’t achieve this feat on the first attempt. It took him 1,000 unsuccessful attempts! Now that may well be too many in most people’s eyes, but the point is that Edison did not consider each previous attempt a ‘failure’. He didn’t beat himself up. Instead, he kept persevering, learning each time he failed and continuing in the pursuit of his goal. He was not discouraged nor did he engage in self-loathing because it wasn’t happening ‘fast enough’. If you focus on your failures, you will inevitably self-sabotage future endeavours, rather than stride boldly forward with purpose and confidence.

Don’t fear criticism – it’s just white noise! People are often inherently critical of others and, if you’re attracting any negative comments, it generally means you’re actually doing something! Elbert Hubbard said; “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” Accept that action, particularly when it’s perceived to be successful, will attract negative commentary, but please… don’t let it come from within!