In a perfect world, there would be absolutely no connection between self worth and mistakes. When we make mistakes as children, we are corrected for these mistakes in often unloving ways. The conclusion we draw when we are corrected, is that when we make mistakes, we are bad. This conclusion follows us into adulthood and we internalize the role of the “corrections officer”. When we internalize the role of the corrections officer, we criticize, blame and condemn ourselves for our mistakes.
It is important to step back and realize that at the time that we make a mistake, we are convinced that we are in fact making the best decision. We are doing what makes sense and what seems reasonable to us at the time. We always choose the action that seems the most likely to meet our needs in a given moment. It is only upon reflection that we can see that our decision may not have been the best one. This is why saying that something is a “mistake” is only something that we can say in retrospect. We make decisions based on our level of awareness. Our level of awareness changes, so we can only say that something is a mistake after our awareness changes. Every single person does what they think is right in the moment. If we judge ourselves and our worth based on that retrospection, what we are doing, is judging our past selves based on today’s expanded perspective. Talk about unfair. How fair is it to yourself to expect yourself to know what you did not know at the time?
If you didn’t think something was the best thing to do at the time, you would not have done it. We make a lot of these choices that we think are best, but that turn out to be mistakes, but the truth still remains that we only make mistakes because we are not aware that they are mistakes at the time.
The key to loving yourself even when you make a mistake is to change your perspective about the mistake that you have made; in other words, to re-frame the mistake. In order to re-frame our mistakes, we must change our point of view and therefore our interpretation of the mistake that we have made. We have to look for the value hidden in the mistake and then find thoughts that enable us to let go of the self blame, self criticism and self condemnation we feel for having made the mistake. When you are re-framing a mistake, you are looking to give the mistake positive meaning instead of negative meaning. When you have made a mistake, the following questions will help you to re frame that mistake: What valuable thing did this experience teach me that I would not have otherwise known about myself or about another person or about the world? What did this experience cause me to know that I want? What am I going to do differently in the future? How will this mistake help me to live a better life in the future? Is there anything I can do to make reparations for the mistake I have made? If so, what are they? How can I move forward from here? When you are done answering these questions, make a list of all the positive aspects of having made the mistake that you made.
Perfection is defined as freedom from fault or defect, which is ironic because according to this definition, the state of imperfection is perfection. Mistakes are what “makes perfect”. It is only by virtue of the feedback that we are getting by making mistakes that we get closer and closer to success. Every “mistake” tells you what you need to correct and therefore brings you closer to the likelihood of success. They call this process successive approximation.