How to Recover from a Financial Mistake

businessman working in the officeWhat’s your thought process when you forget to buy or bring something you need? What about when you drop and break something accidentally? What about when you make a silly mistake?

For me it goes something like, “Oh Stefanie, you’re such an idiot” or “Damn it Stefanie!”

From what I’ve heard, I’m not the only one who attacks myself for my mistakes. For some reason, our first instinct when we come upon tough times or situations is to beat up on ourselves.

Now imagine for a moment instead of saying or thinking these self-deprecating thoughts to yourself, someone came up to you and said them to your face. Or better yet, you saw someone saying them to someone else when they made mistake. Well, you wouldn’t stand for that, would you?

If we won’t stand for unnecessary bullying of others, then why do we continue to do it to ourselves? Self-deprecation is in no way constructive. If anything it heightens negative emotions and anxiety in a way that takes away from problem solving ability rather than helping.

Reprogramming this automatic attack on ourselves is particularly important when it comes to financial planning and financial mistakes. Let’s take a look at some of the ways self-deprecation might adversely influence your bank account.

1. Placating Through Spending.

After realizing a financial mistake, like miscalculating a debt or failing to plan for a bill, and then beating yourself up on top of that financial stress, you’ll probably want to do something to make yourself feel better. Unfortunately, with all your heightened negative emotions, the placating actions you chose may be counterintuitive, resulting in more poor spending choices- i.e. shop therapy, impulse buying, running up a bar tab, etc.

2. Denying and Prolonging the Problem.

Negative thoughts and attacks are hard to deal with. Sometimes, it’s easier to place the blame on people and circumstances outside ourselves rather than recognizing that the problem came from our own actions. This coping mechanism of denial and diffusion of responsibility can be detrimental in times of financial trouble. If we displace our accountability, it allows us to continue making the same choices that got us into trouble in the first place.

3. Doing Nothing.

Beating yourself up reinforces a notion that you can’t do anything right so you may as well not even bother. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite reaction you want to have to a mistake. Rather than learning a lesson or devising an action plan to move forward, hating on yourself and burying your head in the sand only makes things worse.

Clearly the “self-attack” tactic isn’t the best option when confronting financial mistakes, so what is?

1. Breathe.

Never underestimate the power of a deep breath. In moments of panic or anger, it’s hard to connect to that yoga-like Zen. But the sooner you can calm down, the sooner you can act with clarity and rationale rather than heated emotion.

2. Look for the Lesson.

To take control of a financial mess, you need to recognize and acknowledge your mistake. When you are willing to take responsibility for what’s happened, you can harness that power for change. Look for your mistake and the lesson that goes along with it.

3. Plan Your Next Step.

Now that you know what doesn’t work, it’s time to figure out what does. If you’ve amassed a pile of consumer debt, create a budget and see where you can cut back. If you’ve been hit with some unexpected bills, create a payment plan and start building an emergency fund for future occasions.

Yes, these are simple, common sense actions, but if you’re clouding your common sense with negativity and self-bullying then they can be hard to implement.

Thinking negative, self-deprecating thoughts won’t help your situation or improve your finances. They will only reinforce the negative experience and create more panic and less ability to solve your problems.


How to Recover from a Financial Mistake — 6 Comments

  1. Very cool post! And yes, I’ve been guilty of being hard on myself when I’ve messed up – financial or otherwise. I used to be an emotional shopper – when I am sad about things, I would wanna run to my nearest mall to get the shopping high. But thank god that was during my college years! Now, I take the time to read or to meditate. I don’t have to be so gosh darn hard on myself. I think that’s much more helpful to me and my overall wellbeing than wasting my money on buying “stuff”!

    • It’s absolutely more helpful than buying more “stuff”. I usually go for a run when I’m feeling emotional.

  2. It’s important to recognize the mistake the error that it was…which is really what the “Damn it, Stefanie!” is. You can take it too far, however…if you continually beat yourself up, it becomes counter productive. Learning from the mistake, then then finding an action that will remedy the situation as quickly as possible is important.

  3. Mistakes are inevitable, so there really is no point in beating yourself up about it. Learn from it and become a better person day by day.

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