You are human, so you’ve screwed up. Probably a lot. Probably so much that at times you can’t stand to be around yourself. You’ve hurt people you love. You’ve hurt strangers. You’ve hurt yourself. You’ve done things that don’t feel like you, things you never thought you’d do, things that have kept you up at night, wondering, in sheer panic: Is this me? Is this actually who I am? Am I this bad of a person?
You’ve made a lot of small mistakes, seemingly trivial ones, but ones that still tortured you for days. Little mishaps at work, tactless things that slipped out of your mouth in social situations before you thought them through, moments where you dropped the ball when a lot of people were counting on you.
And you’ve made bigger mistakes, the ones that eat at you over longer periods of time. The ones where you knew what the right choice was but something stopped you from making it. The ones where you’ve let down someone you truly cared about. The ones where you consciously said something truly hurtful, something you could never take back.
We dwell on these things, because dwelling on them makes us feel like we’re at least doing something. Maybe if we obsess over our mistakes enough, if we torture ourselves enough over every little thing and every big thing we screwed up, then we’ll be allowed to move on. We punish ourselves, because we don’t know what else to do.
But ultimately, punishing yourself doesn’t do anything. All it does is internalize the hurt and the pain of your mistake within you, instead of apologizing and fixing what you did and then letting it dissipate into the universe. It keeps the pain alive, allowing it to suck life out of everyone and everything as it jumps from host to host. Punishing yourself does nothing but allow the hurt to continue to live.
Here’s how you kill the pain: Accept the responsibility for the mistake. Accept that you’ve screwed up. Apologize, admit your wrongdoing. Do what you can to fix the situation, do what you can to help the people you’ve hurt. And then move on. Latch onto the knowledge that you are not your worst mistake. Understand that the most telling thing about who you are is how you behave after you’ve made the mistake. Maybe you did a bad thing, maybe you hurt someone, maybe you hurt a lot of people. Maybe you made this choice impulsively, and you’d do anything to take it all back. Well that’s great, but you can’t take it back, so what are you going to do instead?
You could ultimately be your worst mistake, if you want. You could let this be who you are. Or, you can learn from it. You can fix what you can, you can fix what’s in your control. You can make sure that no one else makes the same mistake. You ca apologize and admit your wrongdoing and understand exactly what you must do to make sure you never do this again. And when you’ve done all that, you can forgive yourself. It’s not the same as forgetting, it’s not the same as acting like it never happened. You can allow the mistake to become part of you, part of your history and part of the reason you are who you are today – in a good way. You can be smarter and wiser and better and kinder because of it.
You can make sure you are not your worst mistake. It’s up to you.