LIFE HONESTLY

Mistakes are just information on how not to do things

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A new book teaches us how to trust ourselves, and reframes the way we think about mistakes. Viv Groskop is convinced

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By Viv Groskop on

I have an uneven relationship with Iyanla Vanzant, spiritual life coach (stay with me, people) and one of Oprah’s right-hand women. Uneven not just because I am completely obsessed with her and she has no idea who I am. No. Uneven because sometimes I think she is the font of all knowledge and wisdom. And sometimes I think she has gone the full David Icke, only with more mentions of God and fewer lizards.

This month, however, I’m fully on board with Vanzant’s latest (and 100 per cent lizard-free) message: to get us all to trust ourselves. Like so many things that are important and, very occasionally, life-changing, this sounds like so much common sense. But as Vanzant argues, a lot of us (women, especially) struggle to trust that everything is going to be OK and we are going to be able to manage, no matter what happens. 

Instead we start to believe that everything is going to shit and then engage in all kinds of pointless, self-defeating behaviour. Like buying a lot of second-hand black satin Jigsaw shoes on eBay (all of which are basically the same shoe repeated over and over again, you eventually realise) because you don’t trust yourself to clear the clutter in your house and prefer to engage in displacement activities that only create more clutter. Just speaking for a friend, obviously.

In Vanzant’s new book Trust, she argues that self-esteem comes from trust and you are the only person who can develop it. What if our problem is not that we can’t trust other people, it’s that we can’t trust ourselves? “Self-trust begins with self. It may or may not be supported by others. If you don’t trust you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says or does, you will not be able to move beyond the level of confidence you have in yourself.” 

Iyanla Vanzant trusted herself to build up her finances again after being declared bankrupt; she trusted that once she had the money for her own house, it was OK for her to buy it even though she had messed up in the past

She gives a lot of examples from her own life: trusting herself to build up her finances again after being declared bankrupt, trusting her own experience of things instead of believing what others have told her, trusting that once she had the money for her own house, it was OK for her to buy it even though she had messed up in the past. (Clue: it also helps if you can trust your friend Oprah to send a pre-paid celebrity interior designer round to your house when you have just moved in.)

But the most difficult question the book asks is this: “Do you trust (no matter how hard it may be) that there are no mistakes in life?” Really? No mistakes in life? Because surely the eBay shoes are a mistake for a start? And I should feel bad about having wasted money on them. I mean, my friend should feel bad about having wasted money on them. Especially as they all rub against an old lady corn that she has on her left little toe and if she had been more sensible and not tried to cheat the system and bought shoes after trying them on in the shop then this would never have happened. (My friend shares a lot of intimate details about her feet with me.)

But Iyanla Vanzant is right, of course. Mistakes have to happen for us to learn anything. So they’re not really mistakes, they are information. Information about how not to do things. Information about what we don’t want. Trust the information. I will relay this to my friend: from now on, trust yourself not to buy stupid things on eBay. Trust yourself to tidy up instead. I trust she will listen.

Trust by Iyanla Vanzant is out now

@VivGroskop

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LIFE HONESTLY
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