What can you say about the mistakes you have made?

How do you respond when you know you have made a mistake?

When I reflect back on my life, some of the biggest ‘mistakes’ I’ve made have provided the biggest lessons. Of course, my understanding of this only came after the pain and shame of not being perfect, subsided. I used to work overtime to avoid making mistakes at all costs.

As I grew I began to realize that…

Mistakes don’t make you Bad or Dumb. They simply make you Human. Relax & Learn. @Terri_Cole (Click to Tweet!)

We all make mistakes. How you respond and what you do next, dictates how much you will learn. Most people have difficulty admitting their mistakes and moving on from them. Mistakes can become part of the negative story about yourself that you keep alive by re-telling and  mentally reliving. This can go on for days, months or an entire lifetime.

The only value in dissecting your mistakes, is to gain insight into yourself and your behavior. Hopefully that insight will ensure that you won’t find yourself there again and again. The process of learning from mistakes is pretty simple.

Mess up. Admit  Analyze Release Integrate.

The process becomes more complicated if you deny your mistake. Denial can come in the form of making excuses, being defensive or outright lying. We all know people who never own it, don’t apologize and blame others. We know them but we don’t respect or trust them.

I know, because I used to be one of them. During my senior year in college, I started seeing a therapist, who was amazing but a little blunt for a girl raised in a WASPy family. She said it all and she said it straight- which was foreign and slightly disturbing as there were many topics that were off limits in my family home. After telling her a story that included, as a sidebar, the fact that I had been running late for my campus job and instead of telling the truth, I concocted a flat tire story as the reason for my tardiness. She calmly said, “Ok, so we have now established that you are a person who lies instead of taking responsibility for your actions.” And I was like, “Whoa, hold up there lady! It is not exactly lying!” and she said, “Actually it is exactly lying.” She went on to help me see the value of keeping my word, speaking my truth and being accountable for actions (mistakes and all!).

Working on accountability is a worthwhile, lifelong practice. Forgiving yourself is an essential part of being able to grow from your experiences. In order to forgive yourself you need a new perspective. I often ask my clients to consider their mistake as if their best friend or child had made it. I ask them how they would handle that situation; how they might console the person they loved. I then suggest using that same kind of language and behavior towards themselves. There is nothing wrong with reminding yourself that ‘it was a mistake anyone could have made,’ or that ‘if you knew better you would have done better.’ The more compassion you can bring to yourself, as difficult as it may feel, the easier owning your mistakes will become.

As you reflect on your life, you may now be able to see that many of the mistakes you have made, were no big deal. Then there are those that may still be haunting you. Begin forgiving yourself now for all that you have done and if it is appropriate to make amends, do. Do this with lots of love. Know that it can take time, but remember to keep perspective. Also remember that continued shame and blame serves no one. It’s time to let go, learn and free yourself by forgiving yourself.

Now take a moment to share with our community one mistake you are willing to forgive yourself for. I look forward to connecting with you in the comments below and as always, take care of you.

Love Love Love


Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. Sign up for Terri’s weekly Tune Up Tips and follow her on Twitter.

*Image courtesy of Shun Trieu