How to Accept Past Mistakes
Mistakes are part of being human. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. If you want to let go of your past, change your mindset. Recognize you can learn a lesson from your mistakes and stop viewing them as inherently bad. If you feel a need to make amends for a past mistake, take steps to do so. Lastly, accept yourself. Self-acceptance is key to moving on.
Changing Your Mindset
Recognize the underlying emotions below your regrets.If you're having trouble getting over a mistake, there may be a reason you can't let go. Spend some time trying to identify underlying emotions below regrettable behavior. In order to let go of the past, you need to be able to release certain emotions tying you to a mistake.
- What is it that you associate with this mistake? Do you feel like you missed out on something? Do you feel like you did wrong by a loved one? Can you identify a single emotion, or several emotions, tying you to your past?
- For example, maybe you feel it was a mistake to turn down a job opportunity. You feel regret over what could have been. Try to deal with feelings of regret head on. Work on accepting that everyone has regrets, and they're a normal part of life. This will help you let go of a perceived mistake.
Separate yourself from your mistakes.Often, we are unable to move on because we see mistakes or poor behavior as defining our character. Everyone makes mistakes and engages in poor behavior. Such behavior does not necessarily reflect your values and worth as a person. Learn to see yourself as a separate entity from the mistakes you've made.
- Try to treat yourself as you would treat another person. If a loved one, for example, made the same mistake you did, what would you say? Chances are, you would not think a friend or family member is a bad person because of a single lapse in judgment.
- Grant yourself this same kindness. Just because you screwed up does not mean you're a bad person by nature. You and your mistakes are two different things. You can certainly use mistakes to identify ways to change yourself, but your bad qualities do not represent everything you are as a person.
Look for a lesson.You may be better able to accept your mistakes if you feel they were worthwhile. Instead of ruminating over what you could have done better, stop and think about what you can learn. You cannot change the past, but you can use it to guide yourself towards better decisions in the future.
- Try to foster gratitude for the ability to learn something new. For example, if you learn that you get frustrated when your mom tries to talk to you immediately after arriving home, then be grateful for learning that you need some time to decompress after you get home. This is something new that you have learned about yourself that can help you to develop better relationships with those who are close to you.
- Guilt is actually your brain's way of sending you a warning sign that you need to change. If you're feeling guilty, your behavior may be too extreme or unhealthy in some ways. If you're obsessing over a past mistake, stop and consider what you can learn.
- For example, maybe you were having a stressful day at work and took it out on your mom. Maybe you need to learn to regulate your emotions more instead of lashing out at others. You cannot change the way you acted in the past, but going forward you can try to better regulate your emotions.
Accept you're imperfect.You need to be able to let go of a need for perfection. If you cannot get over past mistakes, you may have perfectionist tendencies by nature. Remember that no one is perfect, and you cannot expect yourself to go through life never making mistakes.
- Remind yourself that you're able to recognize your mistakes. Many people are unable to recognize when they've made an error and will continue down a bad path. The fact you're self-aware will serve you well.
- Not making mistakes is not realistic. You need to accept that you've made errors and are imperfect in some ways. As long as you're able to recognize your mistakes, you're on the right path.
Acknowledge that you acted with a limited awareness.As life goes on, we are always learning and growing. Your values and beliefs may even change. Something that appears obvious to you now might now have not been obvious a few years ago because you did not have the same knowledge or beliefs that you do now.
- For example, you might have tried using a drug like cocaine several years ago because you thought it might be fun. Now, you might know that this is a highly addictive drug that may lead you to behave in ways that are not true to who you are. But at the time that you tried it, you did not have this knowledge.
- Or, you might have trusted someone who betrayed you and look back on this with regret. However, at the time, you had no way of knowing that this person might betray you.
Making Amends for Your Mistakes
Recognize guilt is useful.The first step to making amends is embracing your guilt. Instead of trying to ignore or dismiss it, see what you can learn. If you're feeling guilty, it's because you've done something wrong. You may need to make up for this, and change your behavior in the future.
- Think about why you're feeling guilty. Did you hurt someone you care about? Did you lash out at a friend or family member? What can you do better in the future? What should you do to make up for it in the present?
- However, do not lapse into shame. Shame is when you judge your whole self based on a few actions. This is counterproductive and will lead you to feel bad about yourself without making any productive changes. As you acknowledge your guilt, remember bad actions and decisions do not make you a bad person.
Accept what you did wrong.It's important to be able to admit to mistakes without making excuses, especially if you've hurt another person. In order to change and make amends, you need to recognize your behavior was a problem.
- Avoid making excuses for yourself. Do not think, "Yes, I snapped at my friends, but I had a lot of stress going on" or "Yes, I was difficult yesterday, but my childhood makes me act this way."
- If you're making excuses, you're more likely to let bad behavior slide in the future. Instead, think to yourself, "I made a mistake. I can't change that, but I can work on improving in the future."
Foster empathy.If you want to make up for your errors, try to have a sense of how you hurt someone. Think about what you said or did. Imagine how the other person felt being on the receiving end of your behavior.
- It may not be easy to have empathy. This may be especially true if you're working on moving on. If you're forgiving yourself, you may think less about the other person you hurt. However, self-forgiveness can be difficult.
- In order to really commit to change, you need to stay empathetic. Spend a lot of time reflecting on how you hurt someone, and putting yourself in that person's shoes. This will ultimately help you slow down and consider your actions a bit more in the future.
Find a way to make it right.This may be as simple as an apology. You may also have to find a concrete way to make up for your actions. After reflecting on your mistake, and accepting blame, try to make it right with the other person.
- In some cases, it may be obvious what to do. If you, for example, damaged someone's property, you need to repair it. If you borrowed money and did not return it, you need to return it.
- In other cases, the damage is less concrete. You may have to apologize to someone and try to show them you've changed. It may take time to rebuild a damaged relationship, but it will be worth the effort. This will help you accept your mistakes and move forward.
- In other cases, the issue may be highly personal. While you did not hurt anyone else, you let yourself down. If you made a poor personal decision, think about how you can do better in the future. You can also look at ways to repair the damage now. For example, say you overspent this month due to going out with friends and unnecessary expenses. You could be very strict with spending until your next paycheck.
See yourself in less black and white terms.If you have trouble letting go of mistakes, this may be related to your worldview. You may have a tendency to see things, including yourself, in very black and white terms. If you tend to view life as a matter of right versus wrong and good versus bad, try to work on seeing the gray area.
- Stop evaluating yourself. You do not need to put a label on your behavior. It's okay to admit you want to change, or that you disliked your actions in a given situation, but it may be counterproductive to label certain behaviors as objectively wrong.
- Try to accept yourself instead. Some actions are ambiguous and confusing. You can make a mistake without needing to categorize your actions, or yourself, by a strict dichotomy.
Show yourself kindness.Do you show yourself the same kindness you show others? If not, it may be a time to do so. If you're not being kind to yourself, it will be harder for you to let go of your past and move forward.
- Try to accept who you are, mistakes and all. If you have close friends or family members, chances are you're aware of their flaws. Does that mean you don't care about them? Of course not. Try to grant yourself this same courtesy.
- Stop problem thoughts as they occur. If you start to think, "I'm so mad at myself for screwing up. I'm such a failure," replace these notions with more positive thoughts. You could, for example, instead think something like, "I made a mistake, but it's okay I have flaws. I'm happy with myself overall."
Embrace your strengths.It's important to acknowledge your strengths alongside your mistakes. If you find yourself ruminating over past mistakes, stop and remind yourself of everything you do right.
- Try writing your strengths down when you're feeling negative about yourself. Take a pen and paper and jot down everything you like about yourself.
- You can start with something basic, like, "I'm nice to others." Build on that, and list strengths that are specific to you.
QuestionWhat if I made a mistake that everybody knows about, and I need them to forget it? How will I do that?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf everyone already knows, there is nothing to hide. Just accept it and move on. You can be a better person going forward to help change their opinions of you.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if my mistakes cannot be fixed and make me stress all the time?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerLearn to let things slide off your back. Learn from your mistakes, and then take a break. Get away from the things that stress you.Thanks!
QuestionI made a mistake asking a girl to be in a relationship with me, and we broke up. Does facing my mistake mean I have to be friends with her?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, you can accept you were not meant to be together, but you do not have to be her friend if you do not want to. You also don't have to look at the relationship as a "mistake" just because it didn't work out. Maybe you learned something, or at least enjoyed some of your time together. After some time passes, you may feel more comfortable with the idea of becoming friends with her, but it's totally up to you.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I get my friend to accept my apology?wikiHow ContributorCommunity Answer(1) Be sincere. (2) Talk right to the point -- say sorry and admit that you were wrong. A short apology usually works better. (3) If your friend becomes furious or react negatively, accept it, listen, and start talking after your friend has stopped. There are no guarantees your friend will accept your apology, of course, but following these tips should greatly improve your chances.Thanks!
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