One Mistake Doesn’t Define You

I was just catching up with the latest Lakers news and was interested to see the new drama surrounding Kobe Bryant and Dahntay Jones of the Atlanta Hawks. It turns out that Kobe hurt his ankle after Jones walked into him on a fade-away jumper, and Kobe landed awkwardly, twisting his ankle.

What does this have to do with mental health?

Well, it’s interesting listening to sports analysts talking about this as a ‘dirty play’ and debating whether Jones is a ‘dirty player.’ Similarly, people often begin to depress themselves by rating their whole self negatively for making mistakes in their lives.

This self-rating doesn’t make any sense, and is totally illogical. What these TV reports do, though, is reinforce the idea that if we do something wrong, our whole being is now judged as wrong. And because this type of reporting is on so many TV channels, repeated over and over again, it is easy to understand why we, as people, have bought into this illogical nonsense of self-rating.

It’s easy to depress ourselves if we keep telling ourselves over and over, day after day, that we are ‘not good enough’ or ‘a failure.’ These statements about ourselves usually come from an irrational belief that our behavior was bad and therefore, we are bad. We fall into the totality-rating trap with our irrational thinking — usually something like “I must not make a mistake, or I’m a worthless failure.”

Once we create such a belief, it becomes a part of our blueprint for living, and it’s from then on accessed automatically when we do anything we deem as a mistake. But what makes this irrational belief so destructive is that it sits quietly in the background, waiting to pounce when we make the slightest of mistakes.

So think about that. Every time you make a mistake, this hidden belief comes flying out of nowhere and smashes you in the face. You then just follow your automatic thinking and beat yourself up for not being good enough, or a failure.

How many things can one person conclude they get wrong in a day? One? Two? With that kind of belief it’s more like hundreds, even thousands! Soon enough, you’re destined to make a mistake, and down, down, down your mood will go, as you constantly activate this irrational belief.

To beat depression, we need to understand that one mistake doesn’t define us. We need to change our irrational belief and become more realistic and rational. We need to learn to accept ourselves and our humanity and be robust enough to know that we cannot be perfect and please everybody.

We also need to learn to be responsible for our mistakes, and to stand up and admit when we do something wrong, while being strong enough to accept we may be criticized for those mistakes.

I’m sure Dahntay Jones knew what he was doing, and maybe he did make a mistake (intentional or not), but the fact still remains: the whole of him cannot be a ‘dirty player.’ It means he’s a player that can make plays that are good, bad, dirty, fantastic, and everything that falls in between.