How to forgive yourself for past mistakes
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How to forgive yourself for past mistakes

Shrek in Shoulder Pads: Episode Summary

Who's making waffles in the morning? Not The Jonathans, that's for sure. They are way too busy recording this this very moment (inception).

But, in all reality, The Jonathans are on a quest to find Prince Charming in what is an ABSOLUTE SEA of A**holes on Reddit's 'Am I the Asshole' thread. And while this path is not entirely rosy, it's filled with warm laughter, expert analysis, and just a righteous smidgen of coaching.

In today's episode, we explore the following posts:

  1. WIBTA for not wanting a woman I used to bully at my wedding.
  2. AITA for bringing an emotional support animal to a funeral despite my daughters wishes?
  3. AITA for not allowing my girlfriend's sister to sleep at my house?

To learn more about the coaching we do, click here.

How to forgive yourself for past mistakes

I don’t care if you’re the most perfect person on the entire planet—to make mistakes is to be human. All of us have made them. If you haven’t, then you’re probably either (a. between the ages of zero and one, or (b. an android posing as a member of the human race… and even then, I’m pretty sure that babies and robots make mistakes, too. 

The thing is, while lots of self-help blogs talk about how important it is to make mistakes and learn from them, it’s not so clear how to forgive yourself for the past mistakes you’ve made. What if you were a bully in the past? What if you ruptured your relationship with your daughter? Or what if you blew up on your partner for crossing your boundaries?  

We recently read and responded to several people who’ve made some severe past mistakes. In addition to listening to our latest podcast episode of Am I The Bleep?!, check out these two important tips on how to move through—and manage—the responsibility of forgiving yourself for your past mistakes. 

Holding onto past mistakes hurts others and you

It’s normal to feel guilt after doing a bad thing. If you didn’t, you’d probably be a… well, we already established that you might be an android, but that inference becomes 100 percent certain the moment you admit you’ve been programmed not to feel remorse. 

But did you know that holding onto past mistakes actually hurts others and you? By holding on, you end up ruminating on everything terrible you’ve ever done… when you could be working on fixing your mistakes and making things right in the future. 

The whole point of past mistakes is to learn from them. And you can’t learn from them if you’re constantly sitting in Mope Land™. In fact, continuing to beat yourself up for past mistakes is the emotional the equivalent of going into your room, locking your door and saying “I’m such a terrible person that no one will ever have to talk to me ever again!”

Sounds a bit like a temper tantrum, doesn’t it? Sure, it might be emotionally fulfilling for a week, a month, maybe a year—but eventually, you’ll realize that guilt is an all-carbs, no-protein emotion. It doesn’t give you the proper nutrition you need to tackle the future responsibly.

Forgive yourself by resolving to look at alternatives going forward

“I could’ve handled that differently.” Yep. We’ve all been there, quietly muttering to ourselves about all the ways in which we royally screwed things up while the clock ticks quietly at our bedside table.

But what about the impossible situations? The “There was no way I could’ve handled that differently” moments? 

Here’s a lesson: as impossible as it sounds, you probably could have handled those past mistakes differently. That’s not to say you’re a bad or terrible person for the way things turned out. But opening your mind to tackling things differently helps you see possibilities—and avoid problems—going forward.

Here’s an example of that. 

A not-so-black and white situation 

We read from a poster recently about a conflict where two children (one biological, the other a step-daughter) were about to attend the first girl’s stepfather’s funeral. The daughter was raised by the man, and the step-daughter wasn’t. The daughter who was raised by him requested that the step-daughter, who owned a service animal, didn’t bring it to the ceremony. She thought it would cause more drama than it was worth. 

The parent in this situation didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, they could agree to their daughter’s wishes, but that would put their step-daughter’s mental health in jeopardy. On the other hand, they could allow the service animal to accompany their step-daughter while risking their daughter’s ire. 

Two conflicting needs between family members. What can you do?

In this case, the parent chose to let the step-daughter attend, animal in tow, which infuriated the other daughter. The entire situation led to a major blow up, and nobody got what they wanted. The daughter felt scorned, and the step-daughter felt embarrassed for attending. 

Who was right? Who was wrong?

The thing is, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the parent didn’t look at any alternative ways to handle the situation. It was either Do I let my step-daughter attend with her service animal?, or Do I not let her attend? 

It didn’t necessarily need to be an either-or situation. Instead, the parent could’ve brought one daughter for part of the ceremony, and another later during the wake. Or the parent could’ve asked a babysitter to watch the step-daughter while their biological daughter attended the service. 

These aren’t the only solutions to the problem. But hopefully they illustrate that things don’t have to be as black and white as we tend to make them. 

Dealing with past mistakes starts with forgiveness

You’re never going to get everything right. Even after you finish reading this article, you’re probably going to go and get a whole lot more things wrong. Don’t worry. I will, too.

It’s what makes us people. 

But what also makes us people is our ability to adapt, learn, change and evolve. We don’t have to let our guilt turn into a self-pity narrative that stops us from growing. And we definitely don’t have to subscribe to the belief that there’s only one way to solve a situation. 

By opening up your mind, letting go of past beliefs, creating new, better beliefs and seeing the possibilities the future has to offer, you can confidently move past your mistakes and work to build a future that’s brighter than before. 

Unless, of course, you’re an android.