Q: I made a mistake at work that cost my company some money and embarrassed some executives. Yet everyone seems to be moving on but me.
Q: I made a mistake at work that cost my company some money and embarrassed some executives. Yet everyone seems to be moving on but me; I can’t seem to let go and no longer trust my own judgment. What can I do to move past this?
A: Forgive yourself. A simple answer, and as you have seen, not easy to do.
Start by thinking deeply about the reactions of people around you. It sounds like they still trust you and have not lost confidence in your ability and judgment.
Looking at yourself from the outside, what do you see? If you catch yourself becoming harsh, step back to that third- party perspective. Some emotional distance might help you get a more positive take.
Also take a more dispassionate look at the actual incident. Clearly it did not rise to the level of “fire-able offense.” Teach yourself to view it in a less-intense way by describing it as someone else might. To you, it was a disaster; to someone else, it may have been a blip.
Now start to convert it to a useful source of learning and development for you. While you may not be in exactly the same situation again, there are likely insights that you can distill. For example, perhaps you want to be more thorough in reviewing your project assumptions. Maybe you need to do more in-depth risk assessments. Or your communication may have been too little too late. Whatever the factor, consider ways that you can become better at your job as a result of this experience.
But what if you are just stuck? If you are continuing to ruminate on the incident, it’s time to break that pattern. One of the tricks that works for me is similar to a strategy that is effective with the average toddler: distraction. Find something to be busy with, and when you find your mind slipping back into the rut, consciously choose a different topic to think about.
You may also be caught in the shame trap. This can be deadly to your confidence, as you are seeing. Bring the light of day to the incident. If you find that you are too ashamed to talk about it, or if you are feeling humiliated about it, find a safe audience and talk about it. Most find that each airing of the incident relieves some of the angst, and eventually the sting will fade.
Time will be your best friend, if you let it. Humans are wired to have the intensity of memories fade with time. In this case it’s an asset, but that requires patience.
And if it is too much to deal with on your own, by all means reach out for help. Especially if you have issues with stress, anxiety, or depression, this could be a major trigger and there is no shame in getting whatever support you need.
In the end, we all have to live through difficult situations, sometime brought on ourselves and sometimes through no action of our own. When you can face it head on and grow from it you have the opportunity to gain insight, wisdom and compassion.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org