I know that I do make mistakes and sometimes they are big ones – ones that I really wished I hadn’t made.
Sometimes when you make a mistake you can do real damage. You can hurt yourself, or other people. For example, if you do a bad mistake whilst driving you might cause an accident and people will get hurt or worse. If you make a mistake when you are talking to a friend or colleague, you can say something that you didn’t mean to. The other person might feel hurt by what you said and you might have caused damage in the relationship. In the long run it means you have hurt yourself as well. Point being, it matters when you make a mistake, but we all do it as we are all human beings. Sometimes the impact of the mistake can be much greater than the thing we did itself.
Recently I made a bunch of mistakes, so I’ve been thinking about mistakes and how we treat ourselves. I do not want to diminish the wrong action, but to find a way to come back to learn from the mistakes and so to move on.
I was observing how I treated myself afterwards. Perhaps the mistake I made was foolish or ignorant but it was too late to change the outcome. In England there is an expression ‘There is no use crying over spilled milk’. It means after you spilled the milk, its too late to be complaining that your milk is gone.
In my case I was doing something for the first time, and if I am honest with myself, I wasn’t thinking straight. It happens even to the best of us! I didn’t realise it at the time, so I made the mistakes and I didn’t get what I wanted. Then I was gutted!!
That was when I got really hard on myself…. I kept trying to tell myself that it was a mistake, mistakes happen, everyone makes mistake sometimes!! But I was still hard on myself! Later I realised that I was so very hard on myself because I was also disappointed in the outcome. I hadn’t realised how much I really wanted it. 20:20 hindsight is a marvelous thing!
Once I recognised that the hardness came from my disappointment, and not from anything harsher, it was easier to have compassion for myself! I could give myself a break. The harshness came because I felt I had let myself down, and that was painful for me, but it was nothing worse. That was a relief!
Somehow, even after that realisation, I still wasn’t done with this. – I fell into a dark and unhappy state that I haven’t seen for a while. It was odd to see it, but I realised that this part of me doesn’t actually want me to be happy, right now. It was a surprise to recognise that this part of me actually wants me to wallow in misery! Maybe other people have that place as well…. its not an easy place to admit to and for me it was a startling realisation!
So I asked myself ‘Is this a place I actually want to live from ?’ The answer came back, NO! That was when I remembered my first antidote to all this darkness is to remember to stop complaining and to get grateful…. there is always, always so much to be grateful for!
Gratitude, and choosing to feel grateful is like taking a medicine for your brain. That’s true, even when it doesn’t feel natural or obvious. Its even true when it feels like the last thing on earth you want to do. Gratitude changes something in the chemistry of your brain. They say that joy and gratitude go together. Its not that joyful people have more to feel grateful for, it is that grateful people experience more joy.! If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can check out Brene Brown on this topic over here. You really can resource yourself with gratitude, and it works!
Now that I had resourced myself, I could see that it was not surprising that I made that mistake. I was doing something new and I had been anxious about it.
Then I remembered to looked back on the last few months. I recognised that globally, I feel more lightness and more openness. And yes I do have a a lot to be grateful for. Simple things like having good food to eat – a nice apartment, things that nourish me, people who care about me and so on.
It reminds me that being happy is a choice. Sometimes I need to re-choose it over and over again. Old habits sometimes take hold and they can be hard to break. The thing is though there really are times when being happy is just not it, at least for me. In those moments, if I am honest, I don’t choose happiness. The challenge I have then is to be kind to myself, in the face of choosing ‘not happiness’. So that I can be a friend to myself no matter what.
As soon as I can find kindness for myself in the face of choosing ‘not happiness’ , then something shifts inside me. Its amazing! There is more space for me to be myself and I find my centre again. Once I find my gratitude for life, happiness, calm, being centred, is never far away.
It has been an interesting journey these last days and not an easy one…. I felt pulled in many different directions, and not easy to find the distance I needed inside me. I am deeply grateful for the tool of Focusing which has helped me find my way.
What happens for you when you make mistakes?
By the way upcoming I have 2 workshops one on Self Compassion on March 12 2017 where we can really dive into methods to find kindness for yourself. Details here
And on April 23rd an Introduction to Whole Body Focusing in which we will learn the basics of Focusing.