This has been one of favourite tools in My Personal Policy Manual for many years, because as a young adult I would be riddled with guilt over the smallest error. Gradually, I realized that, in addition to correcting my critical and unhelpful self-talk, I could also do somethings directly about the mistake. These are the actions that I take when I’ve made a mistake and I find they also help ease the guilt and help me move on.
- First, acknowledge a mistake has been made. Sometimes, it is as simple as saying, “Oops, I made a boo-boo.” Or, for more serious issues, “I’ve made an error. Can we sit down and talk?”
- Apologize for the mistake. It is always helpful to say this upfront and when it is an upsetting or big error you will very likely need to say, “I’m sorry!” more than once.
- Do what ever you can to correct the mistake or the damage. I often ask, “What can I do to make it better?”
- And finally, consider what needs to be done to prevent the mistake from being repeated. When the mistake has been processed, the apology accepted and you’ve been able to help make it better, then ask, “What can I do so that this doesn’t happen again?”
Ultimately, it is important that we are compassionate with ourselves and others. We need to accept that we are human and mistakes will happen. Surprisingly, it is not unusual that the crisis can make the relationship even stronger!
LEARNING TO FORGIVE
There are so many people who feel anxious and sad because of their negative self talk. They become their own worst enemies by becoming their own self critical parent. They are extra-critical when they make mistakes. That is when they judge themselves harshly. Such people have high expectations from others as well as themselves. That is why they are easily disappointed in themselves.
I share with such people that we are all human. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. But mistakes are one way of learning new things in life. If that mistake involves another person then I suggest that they to meet or write to that person and acknowledge the mistake, ask for forgiveness and make plans not to repeat the mistake. I suggest to such people that rather than judging they need to learn to forgive themselves.
Let me share a personal example. There was a time I tried to remember all my social engagements. And then one day I realized that I had double booked myself. I was very disappointed in myself as I felt irresponsible and insensitive. But then I decided to call both friends and apologize. Since my friends know that I am generally a responsible and caring friend they forgave me and suggested that I not worry about it. So I forgave myself and since then I put all my social engagements in my calendar. Retrospectively, I can see that making that mistake helped me become a more organized and responsible person.
The more we are able to forgive ourselves and our dear ones and learn from our mistakes, the more our mistakes help us in becoming better human beings and change our self talk. Gradually we become our best friends rather than our worst enemies.