Today we will be talking through making peace with past mistakes.
I’ve made many mistakes and endless bad choices in my life. The guilt I carried for a long time was unbearable.
We often hold on to the past despite the pain it might bear on us. In fact, we often cannot let go of it because it is painful.
It’s the heavy weight we carry with us through our lives, and it might often be debilitating.
Why is it difficult to move on from trauma and hurt, from heartbreak and grief?
Why do we constantly ruminate over things that are long gone and are impossible to change?
Is there any utility to it, or are we wired to sink deeper into the spiral of regret, grudges, sorrow, or guilt?
These ‘negative’ feelings are helpful in the short term, but the longer they go on, the more they become a hindrance to our current lives.
How can we let go of the past and lead healthier lives?
First, we need to understand why we struggle to let go of the past.
From my experience, in this post I will be sharing the knowledge I have gained on what has helped me let go of past mistakes.
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Toxic guilt makes it hard to thrive
The hardships in our life have a way of leaving an imprint on us that impacts us in the deepest ways, and in the deepest places.
Among these remains, toxic guilt does the most to undermine our happiness, which makes it hard to thrive in a life that is designed and defined on our own terms.
We have to let go of this guilt in order to become the people we were always meant to become, but this means releasing the past and all the pain that led us here.
Guilt is incredibly toxic and destroys our sense of self and purpose.
Whether you hold on to guilt related to your own mistakes – or you’ve wrongfully internalised the guilt of someone else’s wrongdoings – it eats away at your self-esteem and enables to establish harmful patterns that reinforce the worst beliefs you hold within.
Letting go of this guilt requires us to dig deep, tapping into a well of self-acceptance that we’ve perhaps never experienced before.
The process can be uncomfortable, but it’s a beautiful one too.
By forgiving yourself and cutting ties with your past, you can rebuild your relationships and separate yourself from the shame that’s corrupting your joy so dramatically.
It’s time to extract yourself from the shadows and reward yourself for thriving authentically.
What happens when you can’t let the guilt go?
Guilt sits in our bellies like a poison, seeping through us so slowly that we don’t notice the pain until it’s too late.
It corrodes our relationships, our self-esteem; it can even prevent us from tapping into important opportunities.
When you don’t let the guilt go, it destroys you.
Making Peace with Past Mistakes – Forgive Yourself!
Freeing yourself of guilt from past mistakes is possible, but it’s not a process that happens magically overnight.
There are no miracle fixes here. You have to commit to changing who you are and commit to taking action in the name of a new perspective.
It’s worth the reward, however, when you find yourself standing guilt free on the other side of the finish line.
From my experience, here are 10 tips I have put together that have helped me when making peace with past mistakes:
People may tell you that forgiveness is the kindest thing that you can do. When someone hurts you or wrongs you, forgive them – not for them, but for yourself.
Anger and frustration with someone else just eat away at you. And you are the one who suffers, not the other person.
Have you ever thought about how you have hurt yourself?
Whether you’ve made mistakes that you can’t take back or led yourself on a destructive path, forgiveness is not just about your relationships with other people.
It is also about your relationship with yourself.
Forgiving is not easy. It takes an immense amount of work and courage to come to terms with something, let go of the past, and move on.
And while it may be difficult to find the strength to forgive other people and allow that release, it can be much harder to forgive yourself.
Self-forgiveness is harder because you know yourself and your intentions better than anyone else.
You know the selfishness you may have felt or the anger, and self-forgiveness requires you to let go of that grudge that you’ve gotten so used to.
Which brings us to the question of punishment.
Are you finding it hard to forgive yourself because you don’t know how to forgive yourself or do you believe that you deserve to be punished for the mistakes you have made?
When we know better, we do better. And if you have lived a life trying to do better, but still haven’t found the path to forgiving yourself, it’s time. It is time to forgive yourself.
We all make mistakes, and they don’t define who we are
Self-compassion is easier when you know you’re not alone.
We live in a culture where we don’t often talk about how we feel, yet we’ve truly all experienced the same emotions at one time or another.
When we beat ourselves up for our mistakes, it doesn’t move us forward.
The most productive thing you can do is to learn from them.
Once you figure out the lesson you can take from the experience, rumination is no longer necessary.
The lesson I learned after the meeting at work was to be more considerate of how others may receive my sense of humour.
Not everyone finds me as funny as my husband does. I can make better decisions now because of it.
When you remember that mistakes are just a part of learning and of life, the embarrassment fades and empowerment take its place.
You cannot undo your past mistakes, but you can accept responsibility for them.
Admitting to yourself and others that you did something wrong, regret doing it, and will make sure to do better is the first step to self-forgiveness.
Owning the ‘wrong’ and taking responsibility for it not only informs others that you are aware of what happened, but it begins to release the stranglehold this issue has had on you.
No sincere apology is complete without taking responsibility for your actions.
You cannot just run away from mistakes; you have to confront them.
The more you run away, the more they will follow you, so it is a fruitless effort.
Whether you see the people involved in the “wrong” or not, you know about it and it is festering inside of you.
If you can accept that you have hurt people, ask forgiveness of others, and know that you intend to do better, your subconscious will hear you.
You can’t run away from yourself or the truths that you hold, no matter how hard you try – and no matter what methods you may use to numb those truths.
Most things don’t happen in a vacuum, so it may be true that what you feel guilty about includes something that someone else did to you.
And the feelings that you have about that person or those people are completely valid.
But if you have ownership for making mistakes within the situation, you need to own them.
You only have power over yourself, not other people.
And regardless of whether they have admitted their own responsibility for a situation or not, you deserve to live a freer, less burdened life.
And that starts with accepting responsibility for your contributions and actions.
Try to repair the damage
Is there any way you can make things right? If you have hurt someone, is there any way you can make up for the damage?
If you see a path for doing that, follow it.
Tell the person that you are truly sorry for your past behaviours.
Own it and try to think of a productive way of making real reparations.
Help the person feel that you truly understand what happened and that it may have affected them in harmful ways.
They need to know that there won’t be a next time.
Sometimes saying you are sorry is all that is needed for a new start.
If you owe money, set up a payment plan or save up and pay off the debt.
If they still have feelings of anger, really hear them, as part of your healing process and as validation to them.
Do the right thing – whether they forgive you or not.
You are in charge of your mental health and the negative emotions that you are managing.
It is a good thing to apologise and try to make amends.
If the other person isn’t ready or they feel that too much time has passed, that cannot be your responsibility.
Your job is to be the best person that you can be, so stay the course and let them have their feelings.
Accept and fit into life
Everything in life will certainly not happen in the way you want it, in fact, very few things will happen the way you want it.
The world is complicated beyond comprehension, and we barely see a little bit of it.
We have no chance but to get along well with the complexity, serendipity, and unpredictability of life.
We know very little, so it’s completely normal when things haven’t gone in the way we expect.
We are entities that are constantly changing because we are living creatures.
Are your thoughts the same as 3 years ago? I often laugh at what I wrote or said one year ago.
So do not underestimate how little you know and how stupid you can be.
Things may be good or bad if you label them so. Just because your limited mind can’t grasp the hidden causes, do not immediately take it in the wrong way.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
So, with hardship comes ease. Indeed, with pain there is gain. Always keep in mind that life has its own agenda and it’s always happening in the way it should be.
Accept you did the best with what you had at the time
In the past, no matter what I said or what I accomplished, I always thought I could’ve done better.
I set unrealistically high standards for myself, and my inner bully inevitably reared its head when I couldn’t meet them.
My friend used to say “You did the best you could with what you had at the time.” I never really liked that phrase, but he was right.
That’s because everything we do has a positive intent. It may not be obvious, but it’s there.
When I wrote the petition at work, I wanted to help a friend. I thought my idea was funny and assumed it would go over well.
If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it.
How much of your life have you spent kicking yourself because you thought you said something dumb? Or because you showed up late? Or that you looked weird?
Every time, you did the best you could. Every. Single. Time.
The below is an excellent guide on forgiving yourself:
Identify your emotional triggers
When you are triggered emotionally, it’s a sign of an incomplete mental puzzle.
Before all, keep in mind that it’s such a healthy and normal response. Your body lets you know that your wounds need to be healed but you have to figure out how you will cope with that.
It’s not realistic to be mindful all the time. We are human and we all can overreact at some point.
The process will be a lot easier if we don’t try to carry a perfect self-image.
Rather than blaming ourselves why we act that way, the healthy option would be to dive deep into the roots of the issue.
Emotional triggers are not the messenger of guilt, self-hate, trouble, or blame; they are the sign of a lack of understanding.
Instead of judging yourself, when you curiously ask about the core reasons why people or certain events could easily make you defensive, the story will eventually come up to the surface.
Here are some practical steps:
- Breathe: When our ego is triggered, the brain proceeds to fight or flight mode. The easiest way to change your physiological response is through controlling your breathing. Just get in the habit of taking a deep breath and slowly letting it out before giving a response.
- Accept what you’re experiencing: Do not deny what’s happening. It’s an actual mind-body business. The emotions that we are feeling are real and they are trying to tell us something about ourselves. Do not suppress them but try to learn from them.
- Non-identify with the experience: You are not the body, nor your mind, nor your emotions. This realisation is the key to make a healthy observation without harming your self-acceptance. When you become an observer, everything will become clearer.
- Investigate why you’re experiencing it: Once you detach yourself from the situation, start looking for the answers. Was it about your past? Maybe it was something about your childhood? Maybe you read the situation wrong by false accusations? Listening to the story from the other side might help you as well.
Remember that you are the only one in charge of how you feel
When we base our feelings on other people’s opinions, we give up ownership of our emotions.
We’re allowing other people to be our puppet master, and when they pull the strings just right, we either feel good or bad.
If someone ignores you, chances are your mind immediately assigns meaning to that action.
To you, it might mean you aren’t worth their time or you aren’t likable enough, smart enough, or cool enough.
You may feel sad or angry, but you’re actually having an emotional reaction to your own thought – not their action.
To change how other people’s actions make you feel, you only need to change your thoughts.
Since our thoughts are usually automatic or subconscious, it may take some digging to figure out what thoughts are behind your emotions.
But once you do, challenge it, question it, or accept it. Your emotions will follow.
Write it out
The pen is the perfect tool for getting in touch with your emotions.
Let it reveal your insecurities, uncertainties, worries, and all. The one thing you’re trying to hold is the one thing you’ve got to let go of.
It’s better to see them on paper rather than staying hidden in the shrouded places of your mind.
Last research shows that writing about uncertain things, past traumas, or mistakes can even improve physical health by boosting immune functioning.
There is only one rule: tell the truth.
Take your time and find the most suitable way to put your story into words. Don’t make the mistake of locking everything away in the back of your mind until it finally bursts out of you.
What’s happening in your mind matters.
Now is the time to tell it.
Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s perfectly okay
We often hold tight to limiting beliefs. We look at everything around us to prove them to be true and attach our worth to negative opinions.
But the opinions of others really have nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.
If you stood in front of 20 strangers and spoke on any topic, some won’t like what you have to say, and others will love it. Some will forget you as soon as they leave, and others may remember you for years.
You might remind somebody of their annoying sister-in-law and another of their loving daughter. Yet each person got the exact same you.
By keeping the thought “I allow you to not like me” front and centre, you’ll be more relaxed and empowered to be yourself.
And the irony is, there’s a better chance that people will like you when you’re being authentic instead of trying to please them.
Making Peace with Past Mistakes – Final thoughts
Letting go of embarrassment starts with changing your focus and your thoughts.
Forgiving yourself comes with being gentle and moving forward with the lessons you learned.
At the end of the day, you’re allowed to be human, mistakes and all.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you are doing to change your life in the coming days and years!
If you have any questions please reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
I really hope you found inspiration in this article.
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Hello! My name is Adam and welcome to my space on the internet. Here you can find me writing about subjects such as spiritual growth, self-discovery, wellbeing, addiction recovery and mental health. Please connect with me on my journey and join the community!