Normalise learning from your mistakes

Today I want to talk about something that appears to be a huge road block in our ability to enable change within society. This is the fact that people HATE being called out when they make a mistake, they really really hate it! Pride is at the core of this issue. Some people would rather defend a mistake than see the problem or error in their actions. People don’t want to believe they have done wrong or made a mistake. Realistically within our lives we will not live perfectly and we will make mistakes. Not only is it normal, it is also important for our growth and learning

When people act this way it restricts their growth and furthers their ignorance. This is counter-productive and leads to unhealthy communication. It inhibits our ability to fight against societal stigmas, stereotypes and microaggressions because when people are called out for their mistakes they immediately attempt to defend themselves in order to save their pride. In order to combat this we need to normalise learning from mistakes and choosing to instead be better.

A mistake is not always intentional and it can show a gap in your understanding on a certain topic or some sort of ignorance you may have internalised. You might not have intended to offend or make an error, but you did and it had a certain impact. Imagine you step on someones foot by accident, you didn’t intend to step on that persons foot, but you did and it created a negative impact on that person. Any decent person would apologise for that harm they accidentally caused and try to not do it again. This same idea corresponds to verbal mistakes. You may not have intended to offend a person, but you did. Instead of trying to defend yourself and explain that it wasn’t your intention, you should instead take a step back from yourself and realise that you hurt that person, even if it wasn’t your intention to do so. Take that opportunity to learn from the mistake instead of remaining close-minded and focused on yourself. When you offend someone, it is really not about you, so put your pride to the side and see the mistake you made for what it really is and learn from it.

Additionally to this, if the person tries to explain to you why what you said may have offended them, listen. That person is helping you to grow by correcting your mistake. Don’t dismiss what that person has said, internalise it, see the error of your ways and acknowledge that yes, you did mess up, but now you can be better. By remaining defensive and refusing to believe that you have made a mistake, you stunt your own growth in learning and just generally being a better person. Acknowledging your mistakes is a form of self-awareness, if your mistakes are negatively impacting someone it is your social responsibility to be better.

As human beings we are not perfect, and we cannot be perfect, we can only be our best. This is why I love learning because it gives me an opportunity to do better. When you learn something new you are bound to make mistakes along the way, it’s only natural and it’s how we learn and grow. If you look back at your life and think you haven’t made a single mistake, then you probably haven’t learnt that much. It is okay to make a mistake, as long as you make use of that opportunity to learn from the situation. We need to normalise this idea because it promotes growth and just generally being a considerate and decent person.

If you choose to not learn from the mistake then you will continue to make that mistake. You are harming yourself by not allowing yourself to grow, and you are harming others but not putting your pride to the side and simply admitting that you were wrong. Defending a mistake is never the right solution to a problem, it only furthers your ignorance and inability to learn. If you think you are always right, then you are just remaining close-minded. To take the famous quote from Socrates: “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” It is ignorant to believe that you have all the answers, because you don’t. There is always more to learn and we learn by making mistakes. Now that doesn’t mean you should go around intending to make mistakes, it means that when someone tries to correct you or call you out, listen to them, hear their perspective and learn.

If you find yourself in these situations, acknowledge the mistake and choose to better instead of defending that mistake all in the name of your pride. Making mistakes really is normal, everyone does it, I do it all the time. Admitting you were wrong doesn’t mean that you are now unintelligent. It means you are clearing the clouds of ignorance that are fogging up your perspective of the world. That is a good thing and it means you are learning and growing. So please, normalise admitting you were wrong and learning from your mistakes. The world will not end, it will enable us all to communicate together and make the world an amicable and productive place to enact change.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

A disclaimer before I begin. I will be discussing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, as well as suicide. If this is something you are sensitive to or triggered by, then this is a warning. There will be links at the bottom of this page to resources that can help support you. You are not alone.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are hundreds of writers paving the way in various fields and raising awareness about important topics.

One of which is Matt Haig, a best selling writer based in England. Matt writes in various styles as a journalist, children’s and non-fiction writer. Matt is active on his social media accounts working towards breaking the stigma around mental health.

Some of my favourite books by Matt are ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ and ‘Thoughts on a Nervous Planet’. Both of these books are non-fiction and tackle the issues and stigma around mental health, as well as Matt recalling his own personal battles with depression and anxiety. Today I’m going to talk about ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. This is one of my favourite books and I urge anyone and everyone to read it, whether you are going through your own personal journey with mental health or are seeking ways to support a loved one, even for just general awareness! Mental health is becoming a pandemic in itself, breaking the stigma and shutting down stereotypes is extremely essential in tackling this issue. It is an enlightening and informative read.

Matt’s writing style is so engaging and his ability to explain such complex mental health struggles in such simplistic ways is truly inspiring. He uses various metaphors and explanations that allow people to really understand the way depression and anxiety can affect a persons life. Matt also includes scripted conversations with himself, portraying the inward struggle and turmoil he felt when his illness spoke to him.

Mental health is such a vast and complex topic, being able to explain its influence is something many struggle to put into words, but Matt Haig does this in a wonderful and effortless way. It allows people to really understand how mental illness can consume a person and the mental and physical symptoms that come with it.

But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.

Albert Camus, A Happy Death

Matt discusses the invisibility and ability depression has to creep up on a person and consume them. Whoever that person may be; a billionaire, an alcoholic, a mother, a teenager, or a businesswoman. Depression can affect anyone and whilst some mental illness are related to past trauma, some may feel they do not have a reason to feel the way they do. This only leaves those people feeling guilty and confused for the way they are feeling. When those around them try to belittle their emotions or behaviour this guilt can intensify. Ending this stigma is SO important, Matt seeks to do this in a number of effective and informative ways within his book.

Another key statement Matt raises in his book is that mental illnesses impact and appear differently on everyone. This means that there is no set way to overcome it, get around it or deal with it. Understanding this is so important! Mental health is a journey of good and bad days. There is no one size fits all solution. There is trial and error, Matt retells how he began to cope with his mental illness within ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’.

The key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them. Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person. You can walk through a storm and feel the wind but you know you are not the wind.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

In an effort to break the stigma around depression and mental health, Matt compares physical and mental health issues. He uses a variety of scenarios to explain this idea but as an example, you wouldn’t say to someone who had just broken their arm, ‘Oh, just get on with it, stop thinking about it!’ So why would you say to someone with depression, ‘Mind over matter, just get over it!’. Mental health issues are just as much issues as physical health issues. There is an obsession to separate the body and mind, when we should take time to care and nurture both. As much as we can have issues with our physical health, we can also have issues with out mental health. Matt pushes this idea throughout his book.

Matt fluctuates between retelling his own personal battles and experiences with depression and anxiety to more statistically informative facts surrounding mental illness. According to the World Health Organisation, “1 in 5 people will experience depression in their life”, and “A million people a year kill themselves. Between ten and twenty million people a year try to. Worldwide, men are over 3x more likely to kill themselves than women.” These figures clearly suggest to us that there is a mental health pandemic amongst us, which is why breaking the stigma is important now more than ever.

When you are depressed you feel alone, and that no one is going through quite what you are going through. You are so scared of appearing in any way mad you internalise everything, and you are so scared that people will alienate you further you clam up and don’t speak about it, which is a shame, as speaking about it helps.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

These are just a few topics Matt touches on in his book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. He also explores the benefits and drawbacks surrounding medication, exercise and therapies. What coping mechanisms work for him, including some discussion on what he has learnt from Buddhist thought in controlling his anxiety.

Matt also discusses how the modern world has set us up for failure due to the feeling that we will always need more, stating that: “The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more?”

Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

Matt’s story is truly inspiring and a message to anyone who feels suicidal that things really will get better again. Matt found a way to live and enjoy life, something he never thought he would ever be able to do again. Mental health is an ongoing journey, doubts can fill your mind and depression can creep up on you, but learning to control those thoughts and to know that you are more than what your depression and anxiety is telling you, is the present theme throughout ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’.

If these topics interest you then I’d recommend you grab this book! It’s a great starting place for anyone wanting to grasp more of an understanding on depression and anxiety. Matt honestly and authentically captures the experiences of mental illness. After facing his own struggles he is not hesitant in stating that life is really hard. However, we can learn to see the beauty of it again within the simple moments, not everyday is promised to be amazing, but it will get better.

Links to mental health support

  1. https://www.samaritans.org/
  2. https://www.mind.org.uk/
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

Reasons to Stay Alive: https://www.waterstones.com/book/reasons-to-stay-alive/matt-haig/9781782116820