We’ve all done things we aren’t proud of. Made decisions that we’ve immediately wished we could take back. Uttered words out loud that have instantly twisted our gut with a pang of discomfort and regret. We’ve all done things without thinking, or while only thinking of ourselves and no one else. We’ve all done things because they’ve felt good in the moment, ignoring what we know will be an unfortunate outcome.
Bottom line, we’ve all made mistakes. Sometimes we even repeat them. Sometimes not just once, but over and over again. And when that happens, it’s not difficult to start beating yourself up. To look at the wreckage that surrounds you, the one that you yourself have conjured up, and hate yourself for what you’ve caused.
It’s all too easy to go back in time, to pluck out those instances from your memory, and count them one by one. To revisit and replay them until they’re stuck in the forefront in your mind, instead of in the past where they belong.
No one likes to screw up. We all want to make the right decision, one hundred percent of the time.
But the truth is that what we actually need to be doing is forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made, not punishing ourselves for them.
What we need to really be doing is examining those instances, and ultimately learning from them. When we pull those mistakes from the storage of our memories, we can’t just chastise ourselves for the stupid things that we’ve done. We can’t simply look at ourselves in anger.
The world that we live in preaches perfection; we’re all under the impression that the only option we have is to succeed, that we need to do everything right the first time we attempt it. And our culture isn’t one that encourages trial and error, but rather one that pushes perfectionism with the only alternative being a total failure.
But I don’t need to tell you that this isn’t the way the world actually works.
No one gets everything right the first time. There’s never been a person who’s lived on this earth who has gotten everything completely correct. Even those who seem to have it all figured out have made awful mistakes, ones that they probably thought would change the trajectory of their lives for the worst.
And behind every successful person is a path at least partly cemented with regret for what could have been, but ultimately never came to be because of a mistake that was made.
So instead of beating ourselves up over every stupid thing we’ve ever done, over every relationship we’ve sabotaged, every person we’ve hurt and every opportunity we gave up for something that didn’t pan out as well as we thought, let’s take the opportunity to learn something. Let’s analyze the situation and figure out where we went wrong. Let’s right our wrongs and apologize to those we didn’t do well by. Let’s mourn for those chances we missed and the roads we didn’t take.
But after we’re done with that, let’s put it all aside and move on. Let’s bundle up all of those mistakes and stash them into the vault of long-term memory; we can’t, after all, pretend those things never happened.
But we can decide not let the mistakes of the past dictate the decisions we make in our future. We can’t let them define who we are as people, as individuals.
Because we’re all only human.
And while we’re at it, let’s forgive ourselves. Let those feelings of shame go. Let them leave your body in one big exhale. Don’t let the mistakes stick to your insides, don’t let the regret rot you. Exhale and release. Let go and start fresh.
Remember that you’ll most definitely make new mistakes. Because you’ll never truly be done with getting it wrong; no one will. Prepare yourself for those blips in your atmosphere. Be ready to let those things go once you’re done with them, once those mistakes have taught you the lessons you needed to be taught.
Learn and let go. Make right and then move on. Forgive and take a step forward.
Because you are so much more than your mistakes.