Some of us have a tendency to beat ourselves up emotionally for mistakes made in the past. The positive in this is the fact that taking an honest approach to our missteps and misjudgments is an important first step toward greater understanding of ourselves and our path which can lead to growth.
However, excessive guilt about the past is a sure way to stay off-track into the future. It’s like trying to drive down the highway by looking into the rear-view mirror – you’re bound to crash eventually. Guilt about the past keeps us in the past by reliving the pain in an attempt to ‘pay penance’ and make the wrong right.
It doesn’t work.
Sure it’s good and necessary to get honest about our mistakes so that we can make the needed adjustment in order to make a more appropriate response the next time….
(Notice how I said ‘make a more appropriate response the next time‘ as opposed to saying something like ‘get it right the next time‘. If we go into any situation with the idea that ‘I must get it right‘ or ‘I will get it right‘, using those words, then what we may not realize is the other half of the binary lurking in the shadows – that is, the ‘wrong’. Because if you have a ‘right’ then there must also necessarily be a ‘wrong’ with little to no room for gray – and that can set us up to repeat self-defeating patterns. The idea of making ‘a more appropriate response‘ gives you much more latitude which can activate your creativity; recognizes that you’re in a process of growth and not moral absolutism, and allows you to be more relaxed as you pursue more creative approaches and greater learning as a result).
…however, we need to forgive ourselves, to let go of the guilt keeping us bound to an unreachable past, and, most importantly, remain focused on our present direction and present goals.
We are not our mistakes. We are not the damaged, dysfunctional person that we constantly imagine we are. But if we remain fixated on our mistakes we are bound to confuse our mistakes for our real Self; and that fixation inevitably leads to a picture formed in our minds of a Self that is without merits, worthless and clueless in the face of challenge.
Mistakes are what you make; they are not what you are!
Form new pictures of yourself based on past achievements and successes (there must be some basis in reality). Do this daily, even if for only 5 minutes a day. You will find yourself magnetized to the images and fulfilling the compelling force of your ‘new’ Self.