Self-Forgiveness: How to Heal and Move On From Your Mistakes14 min read

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As a new chess player, I made many mistakes. This was frustrating, and I would get discouraged whenever I lost to a more experienced player. However, looking back, I realize that my mistakes helped me improve my game. I learned to think more carefully about my moves and to consider more possibilities.

Much like my early days in chess, we are bound to make mistakes in life be it in our academics, career, or relationship. However, those mistakes can prove to be valuable if we pay attention.

Let’s zoom in…

What are Mistakes?

Mistakes are acts or judgments that feel misguided or wrong. And they are so common as the change in weather. There are moments when you mess up, make a lousy call, or do something you shouldn’t have, resulting in negative consequences, such as pain, remorse, or regret, but they can also be opportunities for learning and growth. 

But sometimes mistakes are subjective and not universal truths. What one person considers a mistake may be a master plan for another because your feelings play a role in how you interpret an outcome. 

Ultimately, if it feels like a mistake to you, then you might have the pain or regrets that come with it. And everyone makes mistakes.

Why We Make Mistakes 

There are many reasons why we make mistakes, depending on the situation surrounding us. It could be; 

Lack of Experience or Knowledge

If you are not familiar with something, you are more likely to make mistakes. This is known as sloppy mistakes. For example, not asking for a doctor’s prescription or checking the paper inside the medicine box to find out how much medicine to take.

External Pressure

When we allow ourselves to be pressured, we are more likely to make mistakes. For example, rushing to get a new gadget because your friend got one or buying trendy clothes because they’re popular, even if they don’t suit your style. 

Stress

Stress can impair our judgment and make it difficult to focus. For example, a student who stayed up all night reading for an exam may find themselves making silly mistakes due to stress and exhaustion.

Distractions

If we are distracted, we are more likely to make errors. For example, if you keep responding to every notification on your phone while writing, you may end up with a series of blunders. 

Poor communication

If we do not communicate effectively with others, we are more likely to make mistakes due to wrong assumptions. For example, If the Mama-put does not explain her menu clearly, you may order the wrong food.

Lack of feedback

If we do not receive feedback on our work, we are more likely to make the same mistakes over and over again. For example, you want to be a better friend but don’t hear what your friends think about how you act and behave. Without knowing, you might keep doing things that annoy your friends, which could hurt the friendships. 

Yet, these are only a few reasons why we make mistakes. The takeaway here is that; dwelling on any kind of mistake won’t help you progress. It’s crucial to forgive yourself and move forward.

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Why You Should Forgive Yourself for Mistakes 

In my early 20s, I made some poor choices, and I was pretty hard on myself (I’m sure you’ve made some too). But as I’ve grown and learned the importance of being kinder to myself after a mistake. Let me explain why:

No Aliens: Everyone is Human

We are all more alike than we are different. We all care about things like food, money, jobs, and family. We all have fears and worries, even if we seem successful.

We also all share emotions and the ability to think logically.

Emotions help us react quickly, but they can sometimes lead to mistakes. Logic usually guides us better, but it can’t prevent all mistakes.

For example, we might know that having unprotected sex is risky, but our desire for pleasure might win out.

We are all emotional creatures and it’s not uncommon for our emotions to have the best of us, once in a while.

Right Amount of Mistakes Lead to Wisdom 

Mistakes are not always horrible on a grand scale of life. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, we need the right amount of mistakes to become wiser. Too few, and we may not notice our faults. Too many, and we may lose hope. Finding the balance is key to learning from our mistakes.

For example, if you’re trying to learn a new language, making a few mistakes is inevitable. But if you keep making the same mistakes repeatedly, it’s a sign that you need to slow down and focus on your learning. On the other hand, if you’re so afraid of making mistakes that you never practice speaking or writing, you’ll never improve.

The same principle applies to other areas of life like our associations. 

After a toxic experience with friendships or relationships, it might seem intimidating to make new friends or start a new relationship, but it can make you stronger and better at handling challenging situations.

The key is to find the balance between making too many or too few mistakes and learning from them. 

If you learn from your mistakes and adjust your approach accordingly, you’ll eventually be successful. If you let your mistakes discourage you, you’ll never reach your full potential.

No one has all the answers 

If we had all the answers, life would be simple, and many things would be different. 

For example; 

Spiritual leaders won’t be getting (surprise) divorce papers. 

Governments won’t be amending or revising their laws and policies. 

And even modern technology won’t need regular software updates. 

We don’t have all the answers. 

We’re all learning and evolving – from your parents to your friends, from leaders to technology. And that’s what makes life beautiful. It’s the uncertainty and the quest for knowledge that drive our progress, whether in relationships, society, or the digital age.

Nobody is perfect, and that’s pretty much it. Those who seem to live the perfect life make mistakes, but they’re just better at hiding them. We’re here to learn and grow, and that often comes with trial and error. Without it, we’d never discover what truly works and what doesn’t. 

You are not supposed to accomplish all your dreams

In my early years as a kid, I had all sorts of dreams – astronaut, artist, architect, footballer, musician, you name it. And I bet your childhood dreams had a similar adventurous journey.

We did our best to live up to these dreams, whether it was pretending to be our favourite actors or honing our soccer skills on the streets. Looking back, we can probably have a good laugh at how ambitious and whimsical we were. These dreams created beautiful experiences and stories.

But something shifts in our 20s and 30s. Failed dreams and unmet goals can start feeling like losses like we’ve wasted time or made mistakes we should’ve avoided. 

Adulthood seems to come with this sense that we’re under constant urgency and scrutiny, from family, friends, religion, and society. One misstep – a business venture gone south, a bad relationship, or poor life choices – and it can feel like we’re being watched by an FBI helicopter and our lives are pretty much over. 

However, I believe that the true value of dreams and goals is in getting us off our butts and keeping us hopeful and excited about life. Only about a few per cent of our dreams are ever truly achieved. The real worth lies in the process in between- the failures and attempts.

“It’s not the destination, it’s the climb.” – Jorge Luis Borges

Most people don’t care about you

No matter how interesting you or your stories are, most people don’t care, and the few that do, don’t do so for too long. They’re more engrossed in their own lives. Just look around – people move on pretty quickly from celebrity deaths, chart-topping songs, and juicy scandals.

You, me, and everything we do, even our blunders, are destined to fade into oblivion. Think about it – three generations down the line, it’ll be like we never existed. None of our actions will be remembered.

Unless, of course, you manage to do something truly extraordinary, like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Leonardo da Vinci, Cleopatra, or Jesus no one will remember you past a few years after you die. Only a tiny fraction of people ever etch their names into history. 

If you find that hard to believe, try recalling detailed memories of your great-grandfather – his deeds, words, preferences, or dislikes. Chances are, those memories have faded into obscurity (that’s if you know who he was in the first place).

People care about what sticks in their memory and that of others. Just like how right now, almost nobody may recall what you posted on Twitter last week or what thing you did in school.

As David Foster Wallace put it, “You’ll stop worrying what others think about you when you realize how seldom they do.”

Can past mistakes ruin your future?

It’s true that mistakes are a natural part of life, and can be helpful, but they can sometimes have dire consequences if we drift too far from track or are simply unlucky. 

For example, if you drive recklessly, you could have a serious accident that injures or kills you or others. 

Regrets and pains from past mistakes can also affect you in terms of decision-making, thoughts, and overall well-being.  

However, if you find the silver lining in your mistakes it can be a powerful catalyst for self-forgiveness. With new insight, you can chart a new course, leaving behind the weight of your past and embracing a brighter future.

So how do you do this? 

How to Forgive Yourself And Move On from Mistakes

The first step is… 

Accept Your Mistakes 

To receive treatment, you must accept that you are ill.

To move on from your mistakes, you must acknowledge them. But, not just say, “I messed up, and that’s life.” 

It involves taking responsibility and being accountable. 

Responsibility is admitting your faults and mistakes. 

Accountability is taking ownership of your consequences and changing your behaviour so that you do not repeat the mistake.

Acceptance frees you.

Accept your flaws, you find peace.

Accept your mistakes, you end their torment.

Accept your mortality, you loosen the fear of death.

Acceptance is the key to accessing life’s gifts. It begins with understanding your nature & how it affects your actions.

Be kind to yourself

While taking responsibility and being accountable for your mistakes can be tough. You often waste time feeling bad about what you did wrong, replaying your errors in your heads with regret, guilt, and shame. 

Sometimes going over what happened again is okay, but it might restrict you from taking the proper steps to forgive yourself.

When you see yourself playing the victimization tape that may sound like; 

“I’m a horrible person for lying” 

“I’m a fool for believing (s)he cared”

“I’m a lousy business person”

Stop yourself and focus – shift your perspective and perception to the positive steps that can lead to a better future. 

For example, instead of replaying the tape of how you messed up, take a walk, meditate, exercise, spend time with loved ones, or listen to some music. Doing things like these will help you relax, and clear your mind. And, with a relaxed and clear mind, you can think of ways to fix the faults (if they can be fixed).  

Your task is to interrupt the harmful thought pattern and move away from the negative experience as much as possible to reduce stress and anxiety.

Silence the inner critic

It’s normal to have your conscience  – or more correctly, your ID, ego, and super-ego – try to make you feel horrible for certain kinds of mistakes. While it is helpful to help us keep in mind what we should not do, sometimes they become too critical and need to be silenced. To do this::

Put your mistakes on hold. If you make a mistake and can’t stop thinking about it, permit yourself to set it aside for a while. Tell yourself that you’ll come back to it later if and when it’s beneficial.

Taking time for yourself is an essential step in the process of moving on from a mistake. This involves self-reflection and introspection. Give yourself the space to contemplate what happened, why it occurred, and what lessons can be learned. This period of reflection can help you gain clarity and insight, ultimately aiding in your personal growth. 

Have a conversation with your inner critic. Journaling about your mistakes and what your inner critic is saying to you can help you gain clarity, reevaluate yourself, and develop self-compassion. 

Also, Monologues  – the act of talking to your inner critic directly as if it were another person can help you identify thought patterns that are sabotaging your ability to forgive yourself. 

Learn from others. Read books, listen to podcasts, and watch documentaries about people who have overcome similar mistakes. Their stories can inspire you and give you valuable insights. Combine this with your own experiences, and you’ll likely silence your inner critic and become wiser.

Get clear about what you want

Once we’ve acknowledged our mistakes, we need to decide how to move forward.

This may involve trying to rectify our mistakes, such as:

  • By apologizing and learning to communicate more effectively, you can strengthen your relationship.
  • Setting boundaries for yourself in the future, so that you can avoid toxic friends or partners.
  • Make realistic goals and appreciate your progress, so you can experience more happiness and satisfaction.
  • Instead of comparing yourself to others and feeling like you’re not good enough; focus on your happiness and well-being. You can create a life that you love.
  • Instead of feeling envious of other people’s success;  focus on your unique strengths and accomplishments, and you can build a more positive and fulfilling friendship circle.

Communicate your mistakes

Communication sparks clarity. Clarity connects and directs us.

This means that when you make a mistake, talking to someone you trust can help you make sense of it and move on. 

Sharing your thoughts and feelings with a friend, family member, or mentor is not a weakness. It shouldn’t shy away from getting emotional support, new perspectives, and a sense of relief. After all, we need each other. They may offer guidance or just listen, helping you process your emotions and thoughts about the mistake.

Get Help: Therapist or Healing Circle 

Humans thrive by helping each other. 

So, when dealing with a mistake or its emotional impact, seeking help can be beneficial. You can seek help from a therapist or a healing circle.

A therapist is a person who helps you with your feelings and thoughts when you’re going through a tough time.

A healing circle is a group of people who come together to talk and support each other when they’re feeling down or going through difficult things.

They can help you handle tough emotions, build coping skills, and move towards self-forgiveness and growth. They can aid your path to healing and strength.

Conclusion; You Are More Than Your Mistakes 

We often struggle to reconcile ourselves with our mistakes. We beat ourselves up for our imperfections, longing to go back in time and make amends. But the truth is, you cannot undo the past. Instead, understand; that you are more than your mistakes. You can accept them, learn from them, and move forward with wiser choices. 

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David Ifeanyi is a mindful SEO content writer, photographer, and photo retoucher with over 3 years of experience. 

His works help people value themselves and their experiences more. Over the years he has inspired countless people to embrace their uniqueness and become better versions of themselves.

David has worked with several brands, including Tobi Digitals, ReelCliq, and Black Aperture. And has been a huge player in the growth of Pawns Digital Agency.

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