You're More Than Your Mistakes

Have you ever felt that your past failures define who you are today? If your answer is "yes", today's article is for you!
You're More Than Your Mistakes
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Do you ever feel like you’re your own harshest critic? You judge yourself for every little failure, misstep, or unachieved goal. Not only that, but you carry the burden of these mistakes around for years. If you knew just how much this attitude could damage your self-esteem, you’d probably change your habits. You’re more than your mistakes. Stop letting yourself be defined by them.

Most of us have the bad habit of labeling ourselves. If you think about it for a second, you’ll realize that you talk about yourself all day long, often in a negative way. When we say “talk”, we’re including your inner dialogue.

Labels are never useful because they limit you, especially when you tend to use negative words to define yourself. “I was always a bad student”, “I’m unlucky in love”, or “I’ve been really shy since I was a kid” are a few examples. You won’t be able to feel good about yourself if you define yourself this way.

A worried woman thinking.

You’re more than your mistakes

Everyone has expectations for themselves in different aspects of their lives. We tend to define ourselves by our achievements. As a result, failing at something has a significant negative impact on your identity. You feel incapable and insufficient. You forget that your essence and your intrinsic value has nothing to do with your performance.

Don’t let yourself be defined by the classmates who rejected you in high school or your failed relationships. You’re more than that job you didn’t get or the test you failed. The friendships you’ve lost over the years and the fears that you still carry around with you aren’t who you really are.

You aren’t what others think of you, nor the times that you’ve lost your cool in an argument. You’re not your failed attempts or the times you chose not to try. The stupid thing you said or the way that others hurt you don’t define you. These are lessons, not life sentences. You’re more than your mistakes.

Don’t let external factors define you

When you shape your identity and measure your value on external factors, you’re giving up the power you have over yourself. Maybe your family is your life, and you define yourself as a mother and a wife. Although that seems innocuous, what if your marriage ends one day? Or maybe your profession is the most important thing in your life and your job means everything to you. But what happens if you get fired?

It’s truly dangerous to define yourself by something outside of yourself because, at the end of the day, anything external is out of your control. If you base your identity solely on your job or your family and you suddenly become “that divorced man” or “that unemployed woman”, your sense of failure will be overwhelming. In that context, it’s very difficult to move forward.

A man thinking about how you're more than your mistakes.

Every mistake is a step towards success

The healthier alternative is to remember that your value is intrinsic and unconditional. It doesn’t depend on external factors. If you can adopt that kind of attitude towards yourself and towards life, you’ll realize that you’re more than your mistakes. You’ll start to see them as lessons. When you love yourself, accept yourself, and value yourself unconditionally, you’ll be able to jump any hurdles that come your way, as long as they don’t affect the way you see yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, fall, or feel afraid.  You’re still you, and you matter. When you love yourself, mistakes lose their importance. Instead, they become lessons that help you improve. Every “failure” becomes a step towards success because they make you wiser and more experienced.

Resilient people, by definition, are happier and more successful because they’re able to overcome adversity and be positively transformed by their experiences. The only way to achieve that is to understand that change is part of the journey. To err is human, after all. Don’t define yourself by your mistakes or your achievements. Value yourself unconditionally.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Iglesias, E. B. (2006). Resiliencia: definición, características y utilidad del concepto. Revista de psicopatología y psicología clínica11(3), 125-146.
  • Lillo, S. G. (2003). La ocupación y su significado como factor influyente de la identidad personal. Revista Chilena de Terapia Ocupacional, (3), ág-43.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.