If it is normal for people to make mistakes, why do we constantly penalize ourselves and others for them?
Whether it’s a bad relationship, poor judgment at work, financial errors such as racked up debt, or wearing that really tacky polka-dot dress with too many ruffles; when we are 90 plus, and looking back at our lives, I’m sure we would all admit to having made countless (big and small) mistakes.
When I tell people I don’t live life with regrets they either look at me in complete disbelief assured that I’m flat out lying, or immediately assume I’m some sort of angel that’s never done anything wrong. (Quite the contrary!)
I believe in living life without regrets mainly because of my optimistic outlook on life. I also partially credit the great teachings from many different books.
One such example is the excerpt I read from The Freedom to Become: Part 1, from S.A. Abraham’s new book, The Keys That Open which provided similar inspiration and sound rationale.
These different teachings have led me to the understanding that mistakes are an inevitable part of life; while learning from our mistakes, (and learning not to repeat the same mistakes over and over), is essential to our growth process as humans.
Last night, as I was sitting at my computer working away, there was a movie playing in the background, something about two women with a high school rivalry whose children were now faced with the same dilemma.
I started to tune in and pay attention just at the point where one of the daughters was confessing to her mother how terrible she felt that she was a bully in high school and overwhelmed by the fact that her past actions had come back to haunt her now that the man she wants to marry is the sister of the person she bullied. Yikes!
The mother’s response was what impressed me the most, which was something along the lines of, “it’s not about the mistakes you make in life, rather how you go about fixing them.”
This concept itself is not new to me, and it is one with which S.A. Abraham agrees. Think about it, she says, because in most situations, and at different stages in your life; “your choices decide what direction your life can go in.”
Essentially, we are accountable for our own actions. And our decisions and actions can lead us down very different paths in our lives. Even if we make big mistakes or choose the wrong things, the good news is that we can decide not to continue going down that particular road.
We can then consciously adjust and positively change our future actions and the decisions we make.
Our future can become better than our past when we are willing to admit to our mistakes, and when we are open to the process of self improvement. I think it creates a big problem when we refuse to admit our mistakes, and when we refuse to listen to those who would tell us the truth.
On the flip side of the coin, expecting ourselves and others to be perfect with no flaws and with no room for error, can also create problems. Expecting nothing but perfection from ourselves and from others is simply not realistic.
That’s when expectation and accountability can easily turn to blame, to continuous disagreements or worse, to feelings of inadequacy, self-hate and broken relationships. Abraham writes,
“It is inevitable that there will be setbacks, challenges and frustrating periods in mine and every person’s journey. We will still struggle with personal flaws, we will continue to have shortcomings in our personalities, and we will find ourselves making unnecessary and obvious mistakes at times. This is to be expected of course, since all human beings make mistakes. We all struggle with flaws and, everyone likely has their own specific personal issues they are dealing with."
Is that the answer then, ‘don’t expect perfection’? I wish it was that simple! Now, just because I have a positive outlook and know I’m not perfect, doesn’t mean I don’t suffer emotional disappointment when I do make mistakes.
I think that’s the reason most of us penalize ourselves and others for past mistakes. Do you agree, or would you suggest other reasons for this behavior?
In my opinion, this emotional disappointment and the internal dialogue of “I should have known better” (or that other people should have known better) is the main reason why so many people walk around with heavy emotional baggage weighing down their lives, and as Abraham puts it, with, “unresolved anger towards others.”
This is so important because when we let those emotions fester to a certain point, they make us afraid to try, afraid to fail, afraid to love, and they prevent us from experiencing new things in our lives.
We then end up with even more hurt feelings and more importantly, we end up stifling our own personal growth.
S.A. Abraham writes; “To change is to first acknowledge.” She continues to point out that;
“You do have a choice: You can try to ignore the real issues holding you back, and tell yourself it’s not that big a deal. Or you can address, understand and begin to resolve them. Only you know if you’re managing your issues or if they are managing you. Denial and avoidance are often the way we react, but how helpful and productive is this?”
So how do you handle and tackle the big mistakes made by yourself, by others and the emotional baggage that has been holding you back? Abraham provides some amazing suggestions and encourages all of us to;
“Learn forgiveness. Sometimes the person we have to learn to forgive is ourselves.”
She also adds;
“We should learn understanding and patience when dealing with the people we come into contact with… The only thing we can do, therefore, is to concentrate on our own selves and to focus on our self-improvement. And of course, we should practice, and keep practicing.”
Self improvement is ultimately the key to a better life, but improving one’s self is a process that takes effort and time. And this is something that applies equally to everyone across the board.
Sometimes, it’s the most random things like a line from a movie that reminds me that we’re all going through the same things, privately or publicly.
If you need further help in dealing with your past mistakes, I encourage you to reach out to the people in your life, community outreach resources and great reading materials such as The Keys That Open.
Essentially, what we all need to remember is that mistakes are inevitable, but the best way to recover is by acknowledging them and by identifying the learning opportunity so as to not let them negatively impact our lives in the long term.
You can find other reading materials and chapter excerpts, as well as the full excerpt on The Freedom to Become: Part 1, from S.A. Abraham’s new book, The Keys That Open - Meditations on The Creator & the Way to Inner Peace and Empowerment, at www.thekeysthatopen.com.