Continuing the series
With this week’s topic “Forgive yourself for your mistakes”.
Everyone makes mistakes. It’s just a simple fact of life; humans are not infallible. So when you DO make a mistake, the first thing to know…I mean REALLY know…is that you are not alone. Some mistakes are worse than others, but it’s safe to say that no matter how big of a mistake it is, there’s a good chance someone else has made the same mistake!
While it’s encouraging to know that not only does everyone make mistakes, but people have also made the same mistake you did. Unfortunately, for most of us, it doesn’t make it any easier to forgive ourselves for those mistakes and move on.
Of course, it depends
Some things are easier to move past than others. A typo in a paper for college that gets you a slightly lower grade? Meh, no big deal. Send a text meant for your spouse to your boss accidently? A little harder to get beyond. Betray a trust in your marriage and lose your spouse? Not so easy. My guess is there are a lot of people sitting in prison right now who made mistakes that ruined their lives who are having a tough time forgiving themselves.
Guilt and shame
The problem is how these mistakes make us feel. Of course, mistakes don’t make us feel good. Generally, we feel either guilt, shame, or a combination of the two. It’s important to know that guilt and shame are different, and to understand those difference. These feelings can be useful, but also detrimental depending on what we do with them.
Guilt is how we feel when we regret what we’ve done. It’s good because it reminds us of our mistakes and causes us to act more intentionally in the future. It reminds us not to make the same mistakes over and over again. Guilt is our “conscience” if you will, and it helps us remember what went wrong leading to one of my favorite things: experience. My dad used to say, “Experience is the thing you get just AFTER you needed it”.
Shame on the other hand is not quite as useful. While it CAN help guide future actions, problems arise when the shame we feel makes us feel unworthy, deficient, or hopeless. Feeling shame makes correcting behavior more difficult. Shame can lead to what actors call the “impostor syndrome” where we feel as though we are not good enough. When we feel that way, we are less likely to keep trying, assuming we’ll never be good enough. Shame is typically “secret” and leads us to feel isolated and alone.
Mistakes can lead to growth
I’ve written about this before. Mistakes, or failures if you will, help us to grow. Both personally and professionally. Mistakes show us what DOESN’T work, so we can ultimately learn what DOES. Success is built one mistake at a time.
To make things easier
For the purpose of this post, and honestly every post from now on, I’m going to lump stage, screen and voice actors together and just call them “actors”. These types of acting have a lot in common and what I write about for sure applies to all three. This should make things a little easier and less wordy. Well, easier for me to write about anyway!
Actors are unique animals
Actors are unique in that what they do is very public. One would think that we are arrogant, or at least very confident, and LOVE being the center of attention. But for many, if not most actors, that is very far from the truth. A lot of actors, and I am talking about actors whose names you (and most everyone else) know, feel they don’t deserve the attention they get. I know it’s hard to believe, but it is absolutely true.
Not to mention
On top of that, a lot of these actors have made some pretty serious mistakes, both on and off stage. It’s tough when mistakes have a severe impact on your career, but it is imperative to forgive yourself for making them. It can take some time to repair the damage, but one thing to keep in mind is: Other people are going to forgive you (probably long) before you forgive yourself.
How do you manage to forgive yourself?
Forgiving yourself for minor screw-ups is fairly easy. It’s the bigger mistakes that take some time, and thoughtful action, to overcome. There are some steps you can take to help make it a bit easier though.
Set reasonable expectations
The first thing everyone needs to do is make sure your expectations are reasonable. You aren’t going to be the starting quarterback at the Super Bowl, or even make the team, when you first start out. Trying to be perfect or achieve well above your level of talent and experience, is a recipe for disaster and is likely to lead to some pretty monumental mistakes. I like to say, if you set your expectations low, it’s tough to be disappointed
Setting reasonable expectations BEFORE you make a mistake will go a long way to helping you avoid them, but what happens AFTER you ‘ve made a mistake? The first thing to do is to reasonably assess the severity of the mistake. Odds are you think the mistake is bigger than it really is. Make sure you are unemotionally assessing what happened to know how to react. Blow an audition? It feels crushing, but overall it’s not really a big deal at all, and the casting director is not going to remember you forever.
Remember you are not alone
When we are learning to walk, we continually fall and get back up. The same is true throughout life – we “fall” and to move forward we have to get back up. Remember that this is true for EVERYONE, even people who seem to have their entire life together. The secret is: They don’t. No one does. Be realistic – You are GOING to make mistakes. Failing to forgive yourself makes you stagnate and keeps you from success.
Give yourself a break
You’re not perfect. Think about what happened and ask yourself this: If it was someone else, would you forgive THEM? Probably. So why wouldn’t you forgive yourself? Chances are other people have already forgiven you, so give yourself a break and understand that it is OK to forgive yourself.
Take positive steps
Think about what happened. Is there something that you could or should have done differently? Is there anything you need to do now to rectify the mistake? Now that you’ve forgiven yourself it’s time to take some positive steps toward either making amends or correcting behavior. It is now that you should begin making sure you don’t make the same mistakes again.
At the end of the day
Mistakes are going to happen, some big and some small. Those mistakes are only really an issue if you park there and agonize over them or when they make you feel unworthy or less valuable. We all make mistakes, the key is to forgive yourself and move on, learning from them to help prevent yourself from making the same mistake repeatedly. So from now on, work hard to learn how to Forgive Yourself For Your Mistakes!
Joshua Alexander says
A painful self-confrontation is the key to avoiding the same mistake again in the future, most definitely. I think that is the missing step to recovery. That willingness to look at the situation unbiased, and give an honest appraisal of what led up to the snafu in the first place. Otherwise, you’re kind of flying blind. I’ve made so many mistakes in my life that I should really start some kind of Failure Club For Losers. It’s an assumed lifetime membership, but if we all play our cards right, and if we honestly look back with the willingness to learn and own up to said mistakes, then hindsight is 20/20, and we’ll be outta that club jail in no time.
Gary Mason says
It’s so very difficult to look at our own behavior with an unbiased eye. Well, I suppose it’s tough to be unbiased about most things, but especially about ourselves. Certainly, like with most things, it gets easier over time but by the time you’re really good at it you’ve left a wake of mistakes in your past and you need to forgive yourself for THOSE as well. But if mistakes make us “losers” then the club already exists; it’s the human race!
Michael Apollo Lira says
“Experience is the thing you get just AFTER you needed it”.
Brilliant. I really like that quote by your dad. Another one in a similar vein to this post is “we are our own worst critics”… barring narcissists and other outliers. It’s very easy to be hard on yourself. But to move forward, to improve, and to do better next time – it requires something more from us.
Gary Mason says
Yeah, my dad…a very simple man…was a LOT smarter than most people gave him credit for. He had a LOT of sayings like this…and now that he’s gone I try to remember them and pass them on to my kids. Maybe some day they’ll quote ME in a blog! 🙂
It is easiest to be hard on ourselves, but as you say the trick is to take that, learn from it and effect changes that prevent making those same mistakes over and over. In my experience, that is a skill MOST people lack. Maybe they should teach it in school!