Let’s face it—we’re all human, which means we’re not infallible, and at times we do or say things we wish we hadn’t. Although it’s normal to feel bad about it, we’re usually able to move on and eventually let go of the misstep—or even forget about it.
However, all of us have also made mistakes that seem to stay in the back of our mind for a long time and haunt us with guilt, sorrow, or feelings of foolishness. For example, have you ever:
- Broken a friend’s trust in a way that ended your friendship?
- Stayed in a toxic marriage or relationship too long and suffered the consequences?
- Failed to make amends with a loved one before they passed away?
- Out of frustration or anger, really hurt a child’s feelings?
This list could go on, but I’m sure you know what I’m getting at. As we go through life, we occasionally fail ourselves and those around us. When this happens, it doesn’t mean we’re somehow inherently bad or flawed, but it does require that we face the reality of what we’ve done and take responsibility for it. Otherwise, the mistake can weigh us down and interfere with moving forward in a healthy way.As we go through life, we occasionally fail ourselves and those around us. This doesn’t mean we’re somehow inherently bad or flawed, but it does require that we face the reality of what we’ve done and take responsibility for it. Click To Tweet
3 Steps to Release Your Past Mistakes
If you’re struggling with the burden of a regret for something you did or didn’t do in the past—even if it was a long time ago—I want to share 3 strategies that have helped me work through my own missteps.
- Identify how the situation makes you feel. We often let the memory of an event linger in our heads without really facing our emotions around it, but this is part of the reason it gets stuck. Take the time to bring up the memory and ask yourself from your heart (not your head), “how does this make me feel?” Regardless of how uncomfortable it might be, facing the pain of your mistake is an important step in being able to grow from it.
- Journal about what happened: Once you have a better grasp on your emotional response to the situation, use a journal to dig a little deeper about what was going on for you at the time that might have been a catalyst for losing sight of your sense of self, compassion, or perhaps even your dignity. When you unveil that truth, it might sting at first, but when you face the reality, you’re one step closer to being able to forgive yourself, which is important for healing the self-inflicted wound.
- Apologize, if you haven’t already done so. If you did something that really hurt someone else, find a way to summon the courage to tell them that you’re sorry. If the other person refuses to speak with you, send an apology in a card or letter. While it might not repair what has been broken, it’s a meaningful gesture that can release the emotional chain that’s been binding you—and perhaps the other person too. Letter writing also works well if your regret involves someone you cared about who has passed away. As you write, speak to them from your heart, and then find a quiet and private spot to read the letter out loud. I think this will help you find some peace.
I wish there were guarantees that once we’ve messed up badly, we’d be smart enough to avoid doing it again, but that’s just not how real life always seems to work. What we can do though to override our human tendency for errors is to learn from our mistakes, so that over time we can become wiser and more conscientious about our actions and decisions.
For more inspiration, order my newest book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer.
If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.