The Importance of Accepting that You’ve Messed Up

As a university student (and as a human being), you’ve probably been in a situation where you’ve made some pretty huge errors of judgment. It might’ve been a wrong answer to a question in the classroom whilst all eyes are on you (horrifying) or some bad advice you gave to a friend (former friend if you really screwed it up). We all know the feeling, and we all want to forget about it ASAP. Yet the shame is much more bearable if you come to terms with reality – we’re only human beings and messing things up is just one of our many flaws (and charms, for some). Besides, we can learn a lot from being wrong, both about ourselves and about how to interact with those around us. There’s something to be gained from looking past that initial wave of embarrassment. In fact, it’s the wave that I’ll start with.

Next time you make a mistake and descend into a hot frustration, think about why it hurts so much. Is it just from damaged pride, making a mistake in something you thought you had sorted? Or is it for the potential consequences – like I said before, advising a friend poorly might irreparably harm your relationship. In both of these cases, the mistake is a reality check essentially reminding you you’re not as great as you thought you were, and that you’ve a lot to learn before you have a handle on whatever the issue is. It’s a little strange – in a school context, such a problem is normal. Nobody expects a Year 6 child to be a master of college-level maths. When the situation is beyond school, however, suddenly such understanding goes out of the window – of course your friend can’t magically fix your specific relationship issues, they’ve likely had as much practice in it as you have! Obviously, relationships involve a lot more emotion than trigonometry, and the answers there are a lot harder to derive, but surely these things should only make mistakes more understandable? Yet still they hurt. Ah well.

Once grounded in reality again, you can move past your own inner turmoil to the real situation. What went wrong and why? Is the current issue salvageable or is it a lost cause? Most importantly, how could you do better next time around? This all sounds really tedious and detached – as if you’re turning your life events into a report on a science experiment – yet it’s a good way of gaining perspective and stopping yourself from overreacting. It’s a kind of mindfulness, a structure to help you get it together when you’re about to lose it. Most notably, it doesn’t even require isolating yourself from your emotions (which is both almost impossible and hugely destructive for most people anyway) – reactionary responses can help guide you to where the biggest hurdles you’re facing are. Don’t get carried away - if you’re not over whatever happened, getting to that point should be your priority, not trying to make amends – but simply let your feelings lead you to what matters to you.

On a side note, if you’re finding yourself in this reflective state very frequently, chances are something fundamental isn’t quite right. There’s a fine line between understanding and gullibility, between forgiveness and being taken advantage of. When accepting your mistakes in your actions, also look for mistakes in your character – it is possible to be too kind, unfortunately. Remember, good actions deserve to be met with equally good reactions. This is not to say you should immediately transform into a repulsive ball of cynicism and distrust, as that’s just as naïve as blindly trusting everybody you meet. Be open-minded, be kind, and help others, but know when you’re being used.

By accepting our faults and mistakes, we can all take a step towards becoming more well-rounded individuals. None of us will ever be perfect – and who wants to be anyway – but as a collective we’ll form a fantastic community!