How to forgive yourself when you make a mistake

I really hate making mistakes… that sinking feeling you get when you realise you’ve caused something negative to happen, and the knowledge that you could have avoided it. But I’ve recently been trying to forgive myself a little more when I get things wrong. When it comes to my health I’ve realised that I can be especially uptight!

Here’s a recent example. I’ve spent the last two years being incredibly diligent about making sure I don’t ingest any gluten. New mixing spoons, different butter dishes, giving unexpecting waiters the third degree. And then the other night, I popped a chocolate in my mouth. I had checked the pack and somehow missed that they had wheat in. But as I chomped through, it became obvious that those wafery bits weren’t honeycomb.

I double-checked the packet and realised what I’d done. I was so cross with myself. What a stupid thing to do! But as my brain started down it’s normal thought-train of frustration and wishing I could turn back time, I stopped myself. I realised it would only make things worse to blame myself and keep going over it. I needed to take the lesson (always read the packet thoroughly) and move on.

There wasn’t really anything I could do to mitigate the fall out, so I just had to let it go. Fortunately, the effects weren’t as bad as I was expecting and I got off lightly! But even if I had been really ill, getting annoyed with myself wouldn’t have helped at all.

The incident made me reflect on the steps I can take to stop the spiral of frustration and self-condemnation when I make mistakes around my health:

  • Tell someone. Another person can give helpful perspective on the mistake. There may be consequences, but often it’s not as bad as you imagine.
  • Don’t think about other people. I felt bad that friends and family had gone to all that effort for me and then I just went and ate a wheaty treat. Surely if they knew they’d feel annoyed? No, the truth is they wouldn’t. When my diabetes control is all over the place I can feel guilty that I’ve got all this amazing technology and still can’t ‘get it right’. But that’s nonsense. Thinking about others’ responses at this point in time is unlikely to be helpful or accurate!
  • Think about all the times you’ve got it right. One wheat slip-up in two years ain’t bad!
  • Deal with the consequences rationally. Don’t feel ashamed to seek help if you need it to rectify the issue.

I’m not there yet, but I’m recognising that making mistakes is part of being human. It’s going to happen and the only thing I can control is how I deal with it.

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