How mistakes and failure can affect our mental health

Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse Mental Health

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

We have all made decisions or acted in a regrettable way due to poor judgement, not having enough information or not paying proper attention or acting rashly.

The impact of our mistakes and failures can have a detrimental effect on our mental wellbeing.

How do mistakes affect our mental wellbeing?

Mistakes can affect our mental health and cause:

  • Shame
  • Guilt and self-blame
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Decreased self-confidence and confidence in making subsequent decisions in life
  • Anger and frustration
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Overthinking
  • Feeling helpless and hopeless
  • Depression
  • Alcohol and substance use

Mental health challenges that can affect our ability to manage the impact of mistakes and failure

  • Overthinking: if you are prone to overthinking you may struggle to overcome mistakes due to constantly thinking about the past, past failures and past mistakes
  • Stress and anxiety: will affect our confidence in our ability to make decisions going forward as we become anxious about previous failures and mistakes
  • Depression: can result in low self-worth and low self-esteem that can make it difficult to forgive ourselves and overcome the impact of a mistake and start afresh
  • Alcohol and substance use: can be a maladaptive coping mechanism after a significant failure or mistake and can cause us to avoid addressing the impact of our mistake as we self-medicate our challenges with alcohol or substances

How can I overcome my mistakes and failures?

  • Acknowledge and take responsibility for the mistakes, actions, behaviours or lack of action that have occurred
  • Acknowledge the difficult emotions that making a mistake brings up in you and find healthy ways to express these emotions
  • Let go of ‘if only’ and ‘what if’ thinking: negative thinking patterns centred around imagining how things could have worked out differently are not helpful. Letting go of what could have been and embracing what currently is will help in overcoming our mistakes
  • Forgive yourself: mistakes may often result in self-condemnation and forgiving oneself for the poor decisions, the lack of decision making, the mistakes and the poor judgements is essential to maintain mental wellbeing.
  • Choose to learn from your mistakes: every mistake is also an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Make amends: our decisions, our mistakes, our regrettable actions often affect others. Overcoming our mistakes may also mean making an effort to make amends to those who have been affected by our decisions and restoring our relationships.

If you think that you or someone that you know may be struggling with a mental health problem, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

l Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) article written by: Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse, Consultant Psychiatrist.

Feedback: (Dr. Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse Whatsapp+263714987729) ( ;[email protected])

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