Your mistakes don’t make you who you are

Health, Lifestyle
woman jumping across abyss

Talking to a personal trainer at the gym set me thinking about the way we see ourselves. The way we see ourselves is often an important reason why we fail or succeed.

Mat, the PT, has had major knee surgery and for some time was using crutches. Now he’s walking on his own, but he is still a long way from being the active athlete he has been. That all lies ahead in the future.

When someone who is used to training regularly stops, they often put on a lot of weight. They keep eating like they did when they needed all that food to fuel their activity, their muscle repair and muscle growth. They often feel bored and frustrated that they can’t train. That often leads to eating comfort food.

I remarked to Mat that he’d done well not to put on weight. He replied: “I’m a nutrition coach, so of course I know how to manage my weight.” He spoke as if it wasn’t difficult. He knew the sort of person he was, so he knew he could do it. And he had.

When challenges occur in our lives, the result is in part determined by the sort of person we believe we are. It is affected by the story we tell ourselves about ourselves.

happy people

So, how do you see yourself? This is in part determined by how you were brought up and what your parents said to you. Read my article on Blaming Your Parents for more thoughts on that.

It’s interesting how as a adults we let one event determine how we view ourselves. It’s a bit like our attitude to restaurants. We can go to a restaurant numerous times and have wonderful food. Then we go once and have a bad experience. Many of us will stop going to that restaurant, because we don’t want to be disappointed again. We forget all the great meals and focus on the one bad meal.

Similarly, we concentrate on the one time we forgot what we were saying when we were giving a public lecture. We remember the time we played appalling golf, not all the times we did really well, and everything just flowed. We keep replaying that stupid mistake, rather than all the times we succeeded.

We become defined by these relatively infrequent failures. So instead of thinking that we’ve given some great talks, played some great games or had great success socially, we define ourselves by the failures.

If you find yourself doing this, take some time and write a list of your successes. They can be small things. They don’t have to be big enterprises or amazing breakthroughs. All the daily wins add up to the person you are. Write them down and read them or go through them in your mind when you see yourself defined by your failures.