It’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are our teachers – they help us to learn.   -John Bradshaw

              How much of our time and energy goes towards learning from our mistakes and faults and how much of it is wasted by our negative self-talk and beating ourselves up over them? Why do we do this to ourselves?  We do this to “punish” ourselves. We think that if we hurt ourselves maybe we will learn our lesson the same way we try to punish others to teach them to change their ways. I have never known this to work. If we know we did wrong, we don’t need to hurt ourselves to change our ways. We say things to ourselves like “Oh I am so stupid” “I never do this right” “I am a failure and worthless” “I am a horrible human being” This only leads to feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, anger, depression, and low self-esteem.  This is us defining ourselves by our past and this labeling of ourselves saying “I am …” which means we are not capable of being any different. We may end up withdrawing or quit working on whatever it is we are trying to do. How is this helpful? It makes things worse and takes away our capability for growth and improvement. This puts our focus is on the behaviors that have already happened. They cannot be undone. In doing this we are holding on to the past and being held hostage by it which prevents us from moving forward.  Our focus is more on hurting ourselves than solving the problem.

               Instead we need to learn to forgive ourselves for our mistakes. It is important to realize that we are not perfect nor will we ever be. It is about accepting our mistakes and give ourselves permission to make them. This does not mean we actively seek them out or quit trying to improve ourselves. This means we love ourselves and understand that mistakes are part of life. When we do this, it becomes easier for us to reflect on what happened and what changes we need to make in ourselves and our lives to be the person we want to be. If it is a failed business, then what can we learn from this experience that can help us prepare for and overcome similar challenges in the future. If we are working on our anger and we ended up yelling at someone, we can look at what led up to this outburst that we can alter or avoid next time. Maybe this is a reoccurring problem. Most problems are because making changes within yourself can take a long time and lots of work.

               This is about turning our focus to current and future behaviors and less on those in the past. We are not defining ourselves by what we have done but instead on what we would like to be. We are letting go of the past for the hopes of a better future. This is about growth and wisdom.  We can allow our mistakes to contain us and keep us from living life or we can use them as learning tools to see ways we can improve.  If we can’t give ourselves permission to fail, we will stop taking the risks in life that will call us into greatness. Risks mean stepping out and trying things that may not work.

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”Rick Warren