Marcy, a new client of mine, recently failed an exam (by two points) that she took in order to become licensed as a Certified Social Worker in New York State. While understandably disappointed, Marcy, unfortunately responded by becoming severely self-critical and questioned whether or not she had the ‘right stuff’ to become a mental health professional; a career for which she had been preparing since college. Sadly, the lesson Marcy came away with was “I guess I’m just not smart enough to pass an exam like this. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a mental health professional.”
The right lesson would have sounded more like this: “Okay, I blew this exam. I guess I’ll have to work harder to prepare for the next one and figure out a way to do better. After all, I only need two more points. These things happen, I’ll do better next time.” One of the main reasons people may only suffer, rather than also benefit from their mistakes or failures, is that they turn against themselves when such experiences occur, rather than learning something that will help them grow or change.