Depression often makes one catastrophize, and never more so than when we find ourselves the cause of our own problems. When combined with social anxiety, hearing criticism from your friends and colleagues can feel like a death sentence. This outsized fear of criticism can lead to a desire to do everything perfectly, or not at all.
Being perfect isn’t an option, and withdrawing from activities due to fear can be one of the worst things for your depression, if you make a habit of it. Instead, the best thing you can do is learn to accept your mistakes and deal with criticism head-on. Dr. Susan Heitler at Psychology Today has a series of mantras that will help you put your mistakes in context:
1. Nobody is perfect. You’ve heard this before, and it might not have brought much comfort. Try the more accurate version: “Most people are faking it.” Most of what you see of people is their best side, and even that isn’t perfect.
2. I can admit that I did something wrong. It takes strength to own up to your mistakes; most people who criticize you are just trying to help you with that. You can get ahead of the curve by admitting fault early and without blame.
3. I can learn from my mistakes. Again, criticism (when used properly) is a way of helping you learn from your mistakes. Resolve to learn what you can from your mistake. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll never make a similar mistake again. Learning is a slow process, and the end goal is only improvement–never perfection.
4. My actions are not me. Your mistake does not define you in that moment or afterwards. You are a human being, and nothing you do diminishes or overwrites that. The mistake that you made only represents a small portion of who you are.
There’s no way to insulate yourself against mistakes, and trying too hard is likely to do more bad than good. Instead, you need to live with yourself as a flawed human being–and live in a world that might not always be happy with what you do. Learning to do this is an important step towards getting your depression under control.