Some of us take it more to heart than others—our mistakes. It can be particularly painful when it’s an honest mistake that happened while you were doing your best and ended up disappointing someone, especially, if it is someone you love. The mind starts running wild with possibilities of what else could go wrong, consequences, regret, and, of course, guilt. Being sensitive to such things and a perfectionist, I have been learning to move on from my mistakes, avoid judging myself and handle (perceived) disappointment of others. Here is what I am learning to do and think to feel better, after making a mistake and hurting someone.
It very well may be not that big of a deal. Our brain exaggerates aspects of a situation trying to protect us. It tries to get us to shut down, defend ourselves, close up, and retrieve. Our biological system is designed to operate in this way. It’s a defense mechanism. That is why many people cannot even admit their mistake to themselves, let alone own up to it and apologize to those affected by it.
Our mind can blow an issue out of proportion. It is very possible that the person your mistake has affected does not think of it as that big of a deal. Speak about it, even if to yourself, journal about it. It may start to sound less end-of-the-world like and more like something you can get over. Look at the issue from the perspective of your whole life. Will you be fine about it in a year, 3, 5, 15? Ask yourself, would you have forgiven another person making that mistake? What would you have told them?
Be mindful of who you discuss it with, what you read about it, and think about it. There will be plenty of people and written, audio, and video materials telling you this is the end of the world. And there is always the other side, where it is believed that it is human, acceptable, forgivable, and common. Be careful about which side of the story you land on seeking reassurance.
Turn to spirituality. Search for the topic of your mistake on YouTube and add search terms “forgiveness,” “acceptance,” “moving on from,” or just “spirituality.” You will receive a supporting and encouraging perspective on your ill-doing.
Accept and own up to it
Never underestimate the power of an apology. It may feel hard in the moment, but will lift the weight off your shoulders. Some people struggle with it, as it reveals vulnerability, often perceived as weakness. Apology should only be used where needed and deserved. Overdoing it can be draining and self-deprecating. However, when you know you have hurt someone, do apologize. And if they don’t want to hear it, just send this apology their way mentally. Remember to also apologize to yourself for mistakes you have made and how they have affected you.
If there is something you can do to fix the situation or comfort and compensate those affected by your actions, do so, with their consent. Offer your help. We may feel a lot of shame owning up to and addressing our mistake. But you will find relief and healing when you are also working on the solution.
Give affected people space
No matter how hard you want to fix the consequences as quick as possible to feel relief and find forgiveness from yourself and others, it may take time. Sometimes your own forgiveness is all you can get, and that is okay. But hope and expect the best. Envision how that would feel to be forgiven. Connect to that feeling. It will help you feel better instantly.
Go easy on yourself
When people tell me “ah, we all make mistakes, don’t worry.” My mind used to speak back: “yeah they do, but not as big as my mistake!” This is another example of exaggeration. We may feel like our situation is the heaviest, unfairest, and trickiest of them all. And that is usually (or always) not true. With billions of people living and having lived on this planet, we cannot even begin to imagine things they have done and their magnitude. So go easy on yourself. Whatever you did was done unintentionally, unknowingly, or being overpowered by emotions and thoughts.
Prevent it from happening again
This acceptance and self-forgiveness does not mean you can just continue being carried away with your demons and doing things “wrong.” It is important to fully realize your mistake, understand where it came from, and work on that root issue. Was it your insecurity that provoked that action? Start working on that. Was it fear that got you to act that way? Learn ways to release that fear. Was it your wrong assumption or bad decision making? Take note of what you will do differently in the next situation. What habits and actions you remember to perform next time to prevent this from happening again? Set a daily reminder on your phone to remember what patterns you don’t wish to be falling back into.
Try to care less
The way through the regret, pain, and discomfort is:
- facing what you have done
- facing consequences, but not expecting the worse
- apologizing and minimizing the impact on others
- and then choosing yourself and self-forgiveness.
After you have done all this—you have to try to care less. Guilt is a harmful feeling when suppressed and not released. It can manifest in health conditions and block the flow of blessings and good things into your life. Restore your self-love through guilt meditations and other energy and mental practices of release and letting go. You are a wiser person now. Keep following your journey, with lots of great things ready to come to you once you allow yourself to move on.
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