Giving to yourself: See your mistakes

illustration from The Writer

I think that the greatest lie we ever believed was that it was possible to exist as human beings without making mistakes. As a result, we spend a lot of our time beating ourselves up for our past blunders and trying to control our lives so that we are perfect. Perfect being without error.

We plan to go to the right school, get the right grade, get the right job, live in the right house, have the right friends, love the right partner, dress the right way, and raise the right kids. What we fail to recognise and accept is that on the way to do what is right for us we are going to make many wrong decisions.

Mistakes are normal. They exist in varying degrees and so do their consequences. Still, they are normal. They are a part of the human experience. Making mistakes doesn't mean that you are an idiot, a loser, unworthy of love, joy and respect. It doesn’t mean that you are not good enough and honestly if you knew better, you’d have done better but you did not so you could not. Mistakes and failures are the universe’s ways of telling us that we are going in the wrong direction or handling a situation the wrong way. They are opportunities for us to learn to be better and do better.

I learn every day to be less defensive and to speak kindly to myself when my flaws or errors are shown to me by others or by myself. It is hard but it is worth it every time I come around to it. I can accept that I am not always right and that I have made poor decisions that have cost me either money or a relationship. I can admit that I have messed stuff up, hurt people's feelings without intending to or out of my own pain.

I can accept that I make mistakes. It is humbling and takes me off my self-righteous high horse.

Seeing the not so great parts of myself shows me where I need to fix up and takes away the pressure to be a great gal. Since I know that I am not always right, I listen more. I know I can hurt people’s feeling without intending to so I apologise when I do rather than defend my intention. I know I can be impolite and unkind when I am upset so I control my tongue and walk away when I am heated.

First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. — Matthew 7:3–5

Doing so can make you less afraid of being called out or criticised constructively as you no longer see mistakes as rejection or shame. You see them as an opportunity to learn about yourself and to be better.

See your mistakes and speak kindly to yourself when you do.

musings of a psychotherapist living and working in Lagos, Nigeria.

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