So you made a mistake. This is nothing new or particularly mind-blowing, as everyone makes them sometimes. But with each mishap, however big or small, you hold within your grasp an opportunity to either move forward or take a few steps back. Unfortunately, rather than using your errors as stepping stones to future success, many of us end up dwelling on them so much that we become obsessed, stuck, and unable to overcome the negative feelings.
“When you dwell on what did not work from the past two things happen,” says Hale Dwoskin, CEO and director of training of Sedona Training Associates. “First off, what you give your attention to tends to expand. So if you spend a lot of time thinking about your mistakes you tend to simply repeat them -- even though your mind is telling you the opposite. The other thing that happens when you dwell on your mistakes is that you sabotage your self-confidence.”
Dwelling on mistakes, or ruminating excessively, has in fact been linked with depression and other negative emotions.
In one study by psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, it was found that people who dwelled excessively on negative emotions after losing a loved one were at a high risk for long-term depression.
Similarly, ruminating over a mistake you made at work, feeling regret over something you said in an argument, or dwelling on a fight with your neighbor puts you at risk of similar emotional upheaval.
“It's natural to look inward," Nolen-Hoeksema says in a CNN article, "but while most people pull out when they've done it enough, an over thinker will stay in the loop."
Similarly, a study by Abigail Stewart, PhD, a professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan found that women who did not dwell on things they failed to say or do prior to losing a loved one not only recovered faster, but also gained benefits such as new found wisdom and greater self-awareness.
Are You a Dweller?
If you have a tendency to dwell on mistakes (you know who you are!), there is a simple step you can take to move forward.
'Instead of dwelling I recommend that you let go of the feelings that you have about the past and give your mind something positive to focus on instead -- like how you have succeeded in the past or how you are succeeding now,' Dwoskin says.
You can use The Sedona Method to help you in the process of letting go, as this is really the key to freeing yourself from this unnecessary self-criticism.
The more you learn to let go of your past mistakes, and instead find things about yourself that you can love, appreciate and accept, the more positive your life will become.