Making mistakes is a natural and unavoidable part of life; it’s part of being human. But if you let them hold you back from moving forward, things start to become a problem.
So, how do you get over your past mistakes? Here are several tips to move on and start living your best life:
Couples Relationship Coach, Synergy Coaching
We all make mistakes. It’s part and parcel of the whole human gig. We say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing and fail to act. We hurt others, let them down, or miss opportunities.
Those mistakes can haunt us for minutes, days, or even years. We lose sleep as we replay the event, wishing we had handled it differently. We try to rewrite the script by thinking of what we could have/would have done.
It can be a struggle to let go of past mistakes. However, there are some solid steps to move forward.
Here are tips to move forward:
Don’t hold yourself hostage to your younger self
Another human characteristic is that, over time, we grow as people. We learn and change our behavior.
It’s helpful to reflect on the past so you can learn from it. But it doesn’t help to dwell on your mistakes. That triggers shame, making you more likely to make further mistakes.
You are not a bad person because you are not perfect.
Make amends if it helps you move forward
We stand in our integrity when we make up for a past mistake. It makes your heart pound to think about apologizing or talking to someone who you made a mistake with.
Once you do it, you will feel a lot of relief. Making up for a mistake will release the guilt so you can move on. And it helps other people move on, too.
Treat yourself the way you would treat another person
When you think about the mistake, listen to the way you talk to yourself. Would you say those same things to your child or a best friend?
If you wouldn’t, you shouldn’t say those things to yourself, either. What you think shapes how you feel about it. So, talk to yourself about it the way you would talk to a loved one.
Interrupt the pattern
Most people dwell on past mistakes under specific circumstances. Usually, it is when they are doing a mindless task or under the influence. Identify what triggers those thoughts and make a plan to interrupt them.
If your thoughts turn dark when you are doing something specific, then change how you do it.
Change your behavior
One of the most powerful things you can do to overcome past mistakes is to change your behavior so you don’t repeat the same actions. You might need to learn a new skill to change things.
Identify what would need to be different in order for you to avoid making that mistake again in the future. Then, put in the effort to make the change. You will feel much better knowing that you won’t continue to make the same mistakes in the future.
Most people dwell on their mistakes. Their thoughts get stuck in a loop playing the memory like a broken record. You don’t have to live that way. You can move on and get over them.
Talk with a trusted friend or coach
If you find yourself stuck and can’t get over a mistake on your own, try talking with a trusted friend, coach, or therapist. Saying it aloud can change how you think of things.
Peggy Loo, PhD
NYS Licensed Psychologist | Director, Manhattan Therapy Collective
Past mistakes are the hardest to get over if you allow your self-critic to put your actions on an endless loop, like watching sports footage of a game you lost on repeat.
Shaming self-talk turns something you did in a specific situation into an indictment of who you are as a person, which is ultimately unfair, as all of us make mistakes.
However, if you struggle with perfectionism or identify as a perfectionist—getting over past mistakes can be even more challenging.
When most people hear the word perfectionist, they automatically think of people with extremely specific preferences or high standards for all that they do.
Wanting to excel or be excellent is great—incredible good has been done in the world by people who want to do well and take pride in their work. However, you may struggle with an unhealthy form of perfectionism if your sense of self-worth is completely tied to your achievement or performance.
This becomes a self-esteem rollercoaster in life: If you are doing well, you feel great about yourself. If you make a mistake, you feel like a terrible failure.
While it’s understandable that your emotions will ebb and flow somewhat with your performance or successes, a perfectionist’s self-worth is entirely wrapped up in how they do and little else.
This means mistakes are unacceptable, and it feels unimaginable to ever recover after a mistake. Instead, they’re more likely to keep playing them on repeat instead of moving on.
I work with a lot of high-achieving professionals with successful, demanding careers in therapy. Often they have been rewarded over a lifetime for being perfectionists—they are the ones who will work long hours, produce outcomes, innovate and do better than their peers.
I help people consider what the costs of having perfectionistic standards are, and often, a significant part of our work is learning how to view mistakes (and successes) in healthier, more balanced ways.
I encourage three things:
- Exercise self-compassion.
- Reframe the mistake (if possible).
- Take the opportunity to self-reflect.
Exercise self-compassion and accountability
Exercising self-compassion means treating yourself with understanding and warmth in the face of your imperfections as a human. It doesn’t mean to absolve yourself of responsibility, but to extend empathy towards yourself as you would a dear friend in your situation.
Self-compassion and accountability are unnecessarily pitted against each other as mutually exclusive. Perfectionists often use their self-criticism as motivation, like a tough-love coach, and worry that self-compassion means they will become apathetic about future mistakes or set a low bar.
Research actually shows the opposite—self-compassion often motivates people to try again sooner and promotes better performance. Dr. Kristin Neff has a great body of research on self-compassion for anyone interested in learning more.
If possible, reframe the mistake
The reason it’s so difficult for perfectionists to accept mistakes is because doing so feels like an admission of failure as a person, which isn’t true.
There are a lot of different ways to reframe a past mistake:
- Is there something to be learned or even something you partially did well in that same situation that you’ve forgotten about?
- Is there a way that your mistake was also a sign of courage in trying something new or taking healthy risks?
- Could it have been worse?
- Is the consequence of your mistake truly intolerable, or is it something that you can recover from in time?
Generally speaking, most mistakes aren’t lethal, even if they are hard to experience.
Self-reflect and reevaluate your priorities
I like to say that no experience is wasted unless you let it go to waste. Part of getting over past mistakes is to envision what’s next—and this can be a natural opportunity to self-reflect and reevaluate your priorities, values, and goals.
This can also be a chance to redefine your definition of success: Can perseverance, integrity, and effort be successes just as much as final outcomes?
Mistakes are a part of life, learning, and being human. The more we can view all of our experiences as valuable pieces that place some role in our larger narrative, the more we are able to take mistakes in stride and keep moving forward.
The life of a physician is full of stress and challenges. We are constantly pushed to our limits, both mentally and physically. We make life-altering decisions on a daily basis, often with little sleep and sometimes under less-than-ideal circumstances. It’s no wonder that we sometimes make mistakes.
A lot of us in medicine have Type A personalities and strive for perfection that is unachievable. “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” published by The Institute of Medicine in 2000, was a pleasant reminder to all of us in the medical field that we are not perfect.
Given the high stakes involved in patient care and the importance of safeguarding our mental health, it’s essential that we develop a process to overcome our mistakes.
Lessons on how to get over past mistakes
Here are some lessons that I’ve learned that have helped me get over my past mistakes and overcome my personal weaknesses:
Acknowledge and own your mistakes
The first step is to acknowledge that a mistake has been made. Denial only functions as an obstacle that stands in the way of learning from and overcoming a mistake.
Next, take responsibility and own your mistake. This is often the hardest part—putting your emotions aside, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and admitting to your imperfection.
It’s easy to want to pass the blame onto someone else or make excuses, but this happens to your own detriment.
In refusing to acknowledge mistakes, you actively prevent yourself from learning from your mistake and may become destined to repeat the same mistake in the future.
Mistakes may come with associated collateral damage, and it may be prudent to apologize to someone if they are negatively impacted by your mistake. This will ultimately increase the respect you and others have for yourself.
This can be viewed as part of the healing process and may even help you become a better person.
Take the time to reflect on what went wrong
Try to understand how and why the mistake was made. This is best done through reflection.
Personally look back and walk through the situation to figure out what went wrong and where it went wrong. You can’t fix a problem until you first figure out what the problem is.
If you truly want to learn from a mistake, seek a second opinion from a person you trust, such as a friend, family member, confidant, or supervisor. They may offer insight from a different perspective that can help you understand the mistake better.
Being able to talk through what happened with someone can also be therapeutic.
For example, having a friend or family member work through this process with you can help remind you that you’re just a human being struggling with the same imperfections as everyone else.
Feeling like you have a person you trust on your side can do wonders for helping you move forward. You can process what happened, and they can help alleviate any stress or pressure you may be feeling.
This is sure to improve your mental health and give you the resilience you need to overcome the mistake.
Accept your mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes — it’s a fact of life. So after you’ve acknowledged and reflected on a mistake, it’s time to accept it. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you’re condoning your mistake. It simply means that you’re acknowledging that it happened and are ready to move forward.
There’s no upside to dwelling on a mistake. This is just another self-induced obstacle that prevents you from learning and growing from the experience.
This doesn’t mean you can’t feel upset, regret, guilt, or other negative thoughts. Feelings like these are expected, and the strength of these feelings is likely to be proportional to the impact of the mistake. We’ll get to self-forgiveness at the end.
Make a plan to prevent future mistakes
Now that you’ve accepted your mistake and are moving forward, it’s important to ensure you don’t repeat it (or at least minimize your chances of repeating it).
One key solution that has helped me with my job, for example, has been implementing consistency.
As a diagnostic radiologist, I look at CT and MRI scans, with hundreds to thousands of images per scan, all day long. Over time, I’ve developed a now tried and well-tested search pattern for every case I interpret.
I look at the same organs in the same order in essentially every case. I try to rule out every disease and check every organ for a possible incidental cancer, even if it has nothing to do with the reason the study was ordered.
Why do I do this? To minimize the mistakes that I make. The last thing I want to do is miss incidental cancer, especially at an early, curable stage.
It’s also important to note that this is an ongoing process. I like to think of my search pattern as “always being in beta,” i.e., always in a testing phase that’s open for improvement.
Each time I begrudgingly make a mistake when reading a case (I take my mistakes very hard, but understand that, when reading 15,000+ cases a year with millions of images, mistakes will happen), I revisit my search pattern to ensure that it will not happen again on the next case (i.e., patient).
Be grateful for your mistakes
Look at every mistake you make as an opportunity to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
Learning from mistakes, in my opinion, is the best part about making a mistake! Yes, there can be a positive to each and every mistake you make. Silver linings are everywhere if you look hard enough.
Once you’ve gone through the steps above, you’re unlikely to make the same mistake, or even a similar mistake, again.
Better yet, you can put your newfound knowledge to good use and take steps to ensure others don’t repeat these same mistakes either. This is largely the reason why policies exist — to help a workforce avoid making recurring mistakes.
Embodying a positive mindset and cultivating gratitude allows you to focus on potential solutions rather than being overly distracted by the problems. Approaching each mistake with a positive attitude and a desire to learn will set you up for success.
Recognize all the mistakes you didn’t make
This is something most of us overlook. We have to remember not to be overly hard on ourselves when we make mistakes.
It’s easy for negative thoughts to get stuck in your head. But we can’t dwell on what we did wrong and forget or ignore everything that we’ve done right.
Related: How to Get Rid of Negative Thoughts?
As I mentioned earlier, I take my mistakes very hard as a patient is on the other end of every mistake I make. It’s easy to start to feel down or depressed after making a mistake, especially when the stakes are high.
This is when I try to remind myself of all the mistakes I’ve managed to avoid — the subtle cancers that I have found as a direct result of learning from past mistakes during my residency training.
I also remember all the times colleagues have called me up to mention a “great call” I made for findings that they may have missed.
Thus, this is an opportunity to show yourself some kindness and realize that making a mistake does not make you a bad person, and your mistake does not define you.
This nicely segues into the final lesson I’ve learned from my decades of making (and learning from) mistakes — forgiveness.
“To err is human,” whether or not you’re in the field of medicine. Odds are, you’re like the rest of us — just trying to do the best job you can. Mistakes can and will happen. And when they do, it’s important to remember to show yourself some self-compassion.
Learn to accept forgiveness, even if it’s just from yourself. It’s difficult to truly move forward until you’ve made amends for your mistake.
Big, impactful mistakes can feel traumatic and have a significant negative effect on your mental health. Rest assured that it is okay to feel hurt, guilt, shame, etc. The struggle is real.
Making amends is crucial, though, for moving on. Forgiving yourself is paramount to achieving peace of mind and leaving the past for the present moment.
Making an honest mistake doesn’t make you a bad person. You deserve a second chance. Grant yourself that second chance.
My overall takeaways
Embrace your humanity and imperfections, and let them inspire and motivate you to be better. Cultivate a positive mindset and use your mistakes as a conduit to continuous self-improvement.
Thomas Edison didn’t make thousands of mistakes when trying to invent the light bulb. Rather, he made the most of thousands of learning opportunities that manifested into the invention of the light bulb.
Edison used these lessons to brighten the world, and you can use these lessons to brighten your future!
So, the next time you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. Let go of past mistakes — we all make them. What’s important is how you respond to your mistakes.
Perfection is fantasy. Make continuous improvement your reality.
Haley Riddle, MA, LPC-A
Counselor, Mynd Psychiatry
As humans, we all make mistakes from time to time. Some mistakes weigh heavily on one’s subconscious more than others, yet it is important to get over all of one’s past mistakes.
One reason is that ruminating on past mistakes can decrease one’s self-esteem, confidence, and mood. Another reason is that past mistakes are just that, in the past and mistakes.
Focusing on these can hold individuals back from succeeding in the future or learning from these experiences. It can be difficult to get over past mistakes, but it is important for one’s well-being.
Recognize your feelings surrounding the mistake
One way to get over past mistakes includes recognizing your feelings surrounding the mistake.
Acknowledging these feelings can help one change them into neutral or positive feelings and begin to move on or view the mistake as a learning experience.
Acknowledge that you’re being hard on yourself
Another way to get over past mistakes is to acknowledge that you are being hard on yourself but consistently focusing on the past mistake made. It is critical to know you are not your mistakes.
Acknowledge what you would do if it were to happen again
Individuals do the best they can with the resources available to them; it may be possible that one’s circumstances have changed since making the mistake, and they wish they could go back and use what they know or have now.
This is a great way to learn from a past mistake, acknowledging what one would do if this were to happen again in their current circumstance.
Treat yourself with kindness, and talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. It is important to take care of one’s mental health and forgive yourself for any past mistakes you have made. If you struggle to do so, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional.
Working with a mental health professional may help develop coping skills and work through previous mistakes while improving their well-being.
Elysia Bronson, MA, RCC
Registered Clinical Counsellor, The Woods Counselling Co.
Reframe these problem beliefs that keep us from being resilient
A way we can work through our past mistakes is by looking at our thoughts and seeing if they line up with any of the problem beliefs that keep us stuck.
As a therapist, I use the 3 P’s that keep us from resilience as they have come out of Martin Seligman’s work. He is a positive psychologist who has illuminated the three P’s as being crucial to how we deal with mistakes and setbacks.
These can be viewed as three lenses through which we sometimes get caught up in ruminating about our mistakes. Yet the way we move forward towards resilience and past our mistakes is by reframing the story we tell ourselves about our mistakes.
Check the three P’s below and see if there are any areas you might be getting stuck:
Personalization: Don’t get stuck taking things personally
This is where you get stuck believing you’re at fault. While not everything that happens to us is, in fact, our direct fault, we didn’t cause all our problems, but we do need to deal with them.
In this area, we get stuck focusing on the blame and taking things personally. And it ultimately keeps us from both radical acceptance and from being able to move forwards and change.
Pervasiveness: Weigh the rational side of our thinking with our emotional side
This is where we get overwhelmed by the belief that our mistakes will overshadow other areas of our lives. When we get stuck in this kind of thinking, our mistakes tag along everywhere we go, and everything feels awful.
Yet, not all areas are affected by a setback similarly. Sometimes a setback in one area doesn’t actually affect the other areas, but when we think that it will, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We work to weigh the rational side of our thinking with our emotional side so we can find a wise middle path to walk toward change.
Permanence: Don’t get stuck thinking these feelings will last forever
This is the belief that the sadness that comes with our mistakes will last forever. This is a common belief that leads to depression. Yet the feeling of shame, guilt, and sadness that comes with making mistakes all function to tell us something about ourselves. They bring self-awareness to our lives if we are curious about them.
For example, shame functions to alert us that we’ve done something that goes against the values of our community. This comes with thoughts like “I am wrong” or “There’s something wrong with me.”
While guilt, on the other hand, functions to alert us that our own behavior violates our values or moral code. With thoughts like “I did something wrong.” And with sadness, the function is to mourn, grieve, and communicate to ourselves and to others that we are experiencing some sort of loss or that something in life is missing.
Sadness could alert us to the fact that things are not the way we wanted or expected or hoped they would be. This may be difficult to convey accurately, particularly if you’ve been raised in environments that are invalidating.
And with the belief of permanence, we have a hard time not getting stuck thinking that these feelings will stay forever.
In counseling, we tend to work through mistakes by teaching new skills and reframing these problem beliefs that keep us from being resilient and moving on.
Joni Ogle, LCSW, CSAT
Sometimes, when we make a mistake, we can’t help but dwell on it. We might even beat ourselves up over it, thinking that we’re not good enough or that we’ll never be able to fix the problem.
If you’re struggling to get over a past mistake, there are a few things you can do to ease your mind and start fresh:
It’s important to forgive yourself
First, it’s important to forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, and you’re not alone in feeling guilty or ashamed about what you’ve done. If you can’t forgive yourself, it will be difficult to move on.
Try to remember that everyone makes errors and that you’re capable of learning from your mistakes.
Learn what you can do differently next time to avoid making the same error
Next, try to learn from your mistake. What can you do differently next time to avoid making the same error?
Growth comes from making mistakes and learning from them; if you can take something positive away from experience, it will be easier to overcome the negative emotions you’re currently feeling.
Finally, focus on the present and future rather than dwelling on the past. It’s okay to reflect on what happened and why it went wrong, but don’t dwell on it to the point where it’s all you can think about.
Instead, focus your energy on making things right going forward. If you can do this, you’ll eventually be able to leave your mistake in the past where it belongs.
Jordyn Mastrodomenico, LCADC, LAC, CTP
Clinical Director, ChoicePoint
You can make a better judgment call
As the saying goes, “To err is human.” Which means it is only natural that humans make mistakes. Mistakes are not to dwell on, but rather they are a lesson.
Don’t let it occupy your mind more than it needs to
Past mistakes should not occupy your mind more than it needs to. What happened in the past, leave it there and move on to the future.
Don’t let it destroy your confidence
Don’t let a mistake make you think any less of yourself. Don’t take mistakes as setbacks; take them as lessons you learned from your mistake.
Don’t let past mistakes stop you from taking risks in the future. Rather than keeping the past mistake in mind, you can make a better judgment call.
Think of how to do things better next time
Mistakes always happen for some reason. Find that reason out, learn from it, and then make sure you think of how to do things better the next time around.
John Cottone, PhD
Licensed Psychologist, Choosing Therapy
Getting over past mistakes can be difficult, especially when the mistakes cause a person difficulties in the present or if one is prone to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
However, here are a few techniques that I recommend to help people get over their past mistakes:
Talk with others who have made similar mistakes
We are more likely to fixate on our mistakes when we believe that they result from something unique or idiosyncratic to ourselves — our “tragic flaw,” so to speak.
However, the more we talk to others who are either in the same phase of life or involved in the same activities, the more likely we are to discover that other people we know have made the same mistake(s) that we’ve made, even though they don’t have the same “tragic flaw” that we have.
This can help us to contextualize or normalize our mistakes, and we are much less likely to fixate on a mistake that we know others have made, including those who are very different than us.
Group therapy is a great way to interact with others for this purpose.
Thought-stopping is a common technique in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is built on the premise that you are not your thoughts: You are an entity that is separate from your thoughts.
As a result, you have the ability to control your thoughts (and stop them when needed) rather than being helpless in the face of your thoughts.
Thought-stopping simply involves recognizing when an unwanted thought is manifesting and then saying a word (sometimes, simply the word “stop”) that brings you back to the present moment and away your obsessive, destructive thought.
Meditation is a more subtle and refined version of thought-stopping.
Meditation simply involves picking an object of focus, usually the breath. However, it can be a word to repeat (verbally or silently) or a specific sight or sound, and then when distracting thoughts take you away from the object of your focus, the goal is to notice it and bring yourself back to the point of focus.
The distracting thoughts that come up in meditation often relate to unhappy episodes from the past, including past mistakes.
Practicing meditation helps to break the neurological and psychological connection that develops when one fixates on their thoughts (or, in this case, their mistakes).
In this regard, meditation can be helpful as a regular practice and also as a technique to use, at the moment, when one is fixating on their failures.
It’s somewhat comforting to know that everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. However, when you trip up, it can still be tough to put what happened behind you.
Some people struggle with self-criticism that intensely jumps all over them for any mistake they make. That inner voice chastises them for the misstep. It’s vital for maintaining self-respect to brush that inner voice with kindness.
A kinder voice acknowledges an error was made but that it’s human to do so. With self-respect at the core, you can still see your strengths, talents, and gifts and balance that view with whatever happened.
Assess whether any character quality was missing in action or needs to be strengthened
The best outcome for any mistake is being able to see the learning.
After a mistake has happened, you can reflect on the following:
- Understand what happened and why
- Discern what you could have done differently and what you will do differently in the future
- Assess whether any character quality was missing in action or needs to be strengthened; for example, truthfulness, compassion, or flexibility
Action steps are also important:
- Clean up any problems that resulted
- Assess whether the lesson can be passed on to someone else to prevent them from making the same mistake
- When it’s clear that learning has happened, it becomes easier to accept that you gained wisdom from the occurrence.
Make better choices next time
Once you have gleaned the learning from a mistake, then you have the gift of determining what better choices to make next time you are in a similar situation.
Each morning can be better than the day before and give you a sense of progress in your personal growth.
Steve Carleton, LCSW, CACIII
Executive Clinical Director, Gallus Detox
Part of being human is making mistakes. We all do it, and we all have to learn from them in order to grow and become better people. However, some of us have a harder time overcoming our past mistakes than others.
Some thoughts linger and haunt us, while others cause us to doubt our abilities and question our worthiness. If you’re struggling to get over a mistake from your past, here are tips that may help you move on:
Forgive yourself; give yourself some grace and compassion
This is easier said than done, but it’s an important step in the healing process. Acknowledge that you made a mistake and that it’s OK to forgive yourself.
Give yourself some grace and compassion; you deserve it. Think about what you would say to a friend who made the same mistake and apply that compassion to yourself. But while everyone deserves forgiveness, not everyone gets it.
If you can’t seem to forgive yourself, you can talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you work through the process.
Learn from your past mistake
One of the best ways to get over a past mistake is to learn from it so that you don’t make the same mistake again.
What went wrong? What could you have done differently? What can you do in the future to prevent this from happening again? When you take the time to reflect on what went wrong, you can learn from your mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again.
Say, for example, you forgot to pay a bill, and now you’re being charged a late fee. In the future, you can set up automatic payments or reminders, so you don’t make that same mistake.
Let it go; don’t dwell on what caused your condition
Trickier than forgiving yourself or learning from a mistake is actually letting it go. This may mean coming to terms with the fact that you can’t change what happened in the past.
Holding onto past mistakes will only keep you stuck in the past and prevent you from moving forward. So let it go, and focus on the present and the future.
For example, if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, don’t dwell on what caused your condition. Instead, focus on what you can do to manage it and improve your mental health.
Seek professional help
If you’re struggling to get over a past mistake, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist or counselor. They can provide support and guidance as you work through the process of forgiving yourself and moving on.
Some therapies, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can be particularly helpful in addressing thoughts and emotions associated with past mistakes.
A therapist can also introduce activities like journaling or meditation, which can be beneficial in the healing process.
Mary Ellen Ciganovich
Mindfulness Coach and Educator | Author, “Taking Responsibility Unleashes True Healing“
Let go as you look at it with a new learning mindset
Mistakes are in your life to wake you up to what you need to learn about you. When you choose not to learn, you will find yourself making the same mistake, in a different way, over and over again throughout your life.
Past mistakes create anchors holding you back from creating the life you desire.
As you look back at any past mistake, let go as you look at it with a new learning mindset. Should you need to make amends to someone, do so. If the other person chooses not to accept your “apology,” that is okay, as it now becomes “their stuff,” not yours.
Sit with your feelings about your past mistake. See it happening all over again until you can embrace it with love. Visualize watching your mistake on a large movie screen. As you watch it, your error in judgment becomes smaller and smaller.
Finally, it shrinks to the size of a postage stamp, then disappears. You may have to do this several times.
Learning from any mistake, past or present, involves “forgiveness of self.” Forgive yourself for choosing this error. Forgive yourself for holding onto this past mistake allowing it to hold you back.
Become aware of you. What did you learn from this mistake? Become aware of anything you still need to learn about yourself!
As you learn to love yourself unconditionally, accepting yourself just the way you are, without criticism or judgments, you become open to your “awareness of self” and find forgiveness through love.
Senior Editor, Tandem
As a business professional with 30+ years of experience, I have made my own mistakes.
Some mistakes are small, and some are large. Some people will forget about it in the blink of an eye, and others will take longer for people to forget about them. But how can we get over our past mistakes?
Forgive ourselves the same way we would forgive others
Time and time again, we’ve all seen people make mistakes. Whether this was our family, friends, or coworkers, we probably forgave these people most of the time because, after all, it was just a mistake.
Learn to do the same with yourself. Making a mistake doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means you are human. Embrace that humans are not infallible, which means that you are not infallible.
Learn from our mistakes so we don’t repeat the same mistakes again
The best thing we can do with a mistake is learn from it.
One of the best ways to get over a past mistake is to learn from it, which can help ensure we won’t make this same mistake again. If you do make the same mistake, what caused this to happen?
Try to look at a situation from all sides to prevent repeated mistakes. This can also help to ensure you can better get over it.
Though we can’t control how we feel, we can control how we act
This is something I explain to my husband frequently. I can’t change how I feel, but I can control what I do about it, including what I say or how I act.
Feeling disappointed in yourself is okay, and you should admit to yourself if you have done something wrong. In these situations, however, you need to remember to do positive actions that will help you move forward and won’t push you back.
Get help from friends, family, or even professionals
We can’t do everything alone. In the case of past mistakes, the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” can be shortened to “It takes a village.”
You might not be able to get over your past mistake without getting help from others. This could be a friend, family, clergy, or even a professional therapist.
Sometimes we need to talk about our mistakes to get over them, and that is okay.
Everyone handles things differently, including how people get over their past mistakes. What works for one person might not work for another, and it might not work for you.
You must find that special formula that allows you to forgive yourself and move on. And once you do move on, you’ll be better off because of it.
Thomas R. Harris
Owner, The Exceptional Skills
Learn to embrace them as learning opportunities
One of the best ways to get over past mistakes is to change the way you think about mistakes. It can be easy to see mistakes as deficiencies in yourself and to see them as just being “bad.”
When we do that, we avoid them, and by avoiding them, we also hurt our chances of growth and success because part of growth is making mistakes.
Instead, we look at mistakes as what they are — part of the process. As you grow in any area of life (work, relationships, school, etc.), you will make mistakes along the way.
If you see mistakes as part of the process and learn to embrace them as learning opportunities, not only will it help you get over past mistakes, but it can encourage you to try more to make more mistakes, so you can learn even more!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can’t I forgive myself for past mistakes?
Forgiving oneself for past mistakes can be challenging for several reasons:
• Self-critical mindset: If you’re prone to being overly critical of yourself, you may find it harder to accept that mistakes are a natural part of life and growth. This mindset can make moving on and learning from past experiences difficult.
• Fear of judgment: You may be worried about how others perceive you, and that admitting mistakes might make you appear weak or flawed. This fear can create a barrier to self-forgiveness.
• Unresolved emotions: When past mistakes involve others, unresolved emotions like anger, disappointment, or hurt can make it difficult to forgive yourself. It’s essential to address these emotions to heal and move forward.
• Misunderstanding self-forgiveness: Self-forgiveness doesn’t mean letting yourself off the hook or condoning bad behavior. Instead, it’s about acknowledging your mistakes, taking responsibility, and learning from them.
Why do I keep thinking about my mistakes?
Continuously thinking about your mistakes can stem from various factors:
• Negative thought patterns: If you’re prone to rumination or negative thinking, you may be more likely to dwell on past mistakes. It’s important to develop strategies to break these patterns and redirect your thoughts toward more constructive topics.
• Anxiety and fear of failure: Dwelling on past mistakes might manifest underlying anxiety or fear of failure. By constantly replaying your errors, you may be trying to prevent them from happening again, but this can be counterproductive.
• Low self-esteem: If you have low self-esteem, you may focus on your mistakes as proof of your perceived inadequacy. Building self-confidence and self-compassion can help reduce this focus on past errors.
• Perfectionism: Holding yourself to unattainable standards can lead to excessive rumination over past mistakes. Embracing the idea that everyone makes mistakes and that they can be valuable learning experiences can help alleviate this burden.
Is it good to dwell on past mistakes?
Dwelling on past mistakes can be both helpful and harmful, depending on the extent and the approach you take. Reflecting on past mistakes is a natural and important part of personal growth, as it allows you to learn and make better choices in the future. However, excessively dwelling on past mistakes can be counterproductive and negatively impact your emotional well-being.
A balanced approach involves acknowledging your mistakes, understanding the lessons they offer, and then moving forward without letting them define you. It’s essential to strike a healthy balance between learning from the past and focusing on the present and future.
Should I apologize for my past mistakes?
Apologizing for past mistakes can be a positive and healing step, as it demonstrates accountability and the desire to make amends. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to apologize:
• Impact on others: If your past mistakes have hurt or affected someone else, an apology can be crucial in fostering healing and rebuilding trust.
• Sincerity: Ensure your apology is genuine and heartfelt, acknowledging the specific actions that caused harm.
• Timing: While it’s never too late to apologize, be mindful of the other person’s emotions and circumstances. Choose a time when both of you are open to a meaningful conversation.
• Intent: Apologize with the intention to make amends and not solely to relieve your own guilt. Be prepared to listen to the other person’s feelings and perspectives.
How can I avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future?
To avoid repeating past mistakes, consider these strategies:
• Reflect and learn: Analyze the circumstances surrounding your past mistakes, identify patterns, and understand the underlying factors that led to those mistakes. This awareness can help you make better decisions in the future.
• Set realistic goals: Be clear about your objectives and the steps required to achieve them. By having a plan, you’re less likely to make impulsive decisions that may lead to mistakes.
• Seek feedback: Don’t hesitate to ask for input from trusted friends, family, or colleagues. Their perspectives can help you recognize blind spots and avoid making the same mistakes.
• Develop new habits: If certain habits contribute to your mistakes, work on replacing them with healthier alternatives. This may involve cultivating discipline, patience, or better communication skills.
• Accept imperfection: Embrace the fact that nobody is perfect and mistakes are a natural part of life. By accepting this, you can focus on continuous growth and improvement instead of dwelling on past errors.
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