There's always more to learn

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Q: How can I stop feeling like a failure whenever I "slip-up" or "give in to a moment of weakness"?

A: This is black and white thinking at it's finest.


Black and white thinking is what we call a "thinking mistake"; our brain putting things into clear categories of "good or bad", "right or wrong", "success or failure". The reality is that very little is that clear in life. The wording of your question gives us a clear clue into how to deal with this very common problem: How can I stop feeling like a failure..." Feelings are information, not facts, and they are very difficult to control.


A helpful strategy is to dilute and challenge feelings with facts. Take some time to sit with the feelings that come up for you in times like this. What thoughts are connected to those feelings? Write them down. Then, challenge those thoughts with facts. Here's an example:


Feeling: Embarrassment

Thought: My family must think I'm such a pig for eating that second piece of birthday cake.

Fact Challenge: My sister-in-law looked pleased when I accepted that second piece and told me again how happy she was that I enjoyed the cake that she had made from scratch.

Fact Challenge #2: We had such a fun time playing ping pong at the party; the cake was a small part of the festivities and even though it was a big deal to me, it probably didn't even register with other people at the party.


Feeling: Regret

Thought: This day is a fail because I ate cake at the birthday party. I will never be successful at this weight loss thing.

Fact Challenge: Cake is not going to kill you (unless there's a medical issue we haven't talked about). You were smart and mindfully enjoyed the cake while you were eating it. It was a delicious treat. End of story.

Fact Challenge #2: I can't undo the past; I can just do the next right thing. When I get home tonight, I'll go for a 30 minute walk and drink a glass of lemon water before bed. This will help me get back to feeling in control of my choices and give my body some needed movement and hydration to end the day on a high note.


Feelings are going to do what they are going to do. You have much more control over your thoughts. Take the information that your feelings are giving you and temper that with some facts. This will help your brain start to move into that "gray area" where life is actually happening, rather than at the extremes of black and white thinking.