How to break with this toxic dynamic that leads to unhappiness
We all make mistakes, some people more than others. Some mistakes are true gaffes, and others are mistakes that have no major significance. However, the way we deal with mistakes varies from person to person.
Some turn the page more easily, and others get caught in the feeling of guilt and begin to punish themselves. If we don’t know how to control it, it can become the reason we stop doing many things.
When we make a mistake, one of our first reactions can be to blame ourselves. This is perfectly normal. But it is one thing to seek responsibility and learn from mistakes and quite another to cry over spilled milk and spend years of our lives punishing ourselves for it.
Thomas Harris, the creator of Hannibal Lecter, claims:
“Blaming your mistakes on your nature does not change the nature of your mistakes.” The phrase invites us to reflect on the usefulness of guilt and that makes us aware of the importance of stopping blaming ourselves for everything.
Being a perfectionist is good, but you have to know how to find the middle ground. Otherwise, perfection can become a real punishment through guilt. We will hardly be satisfied with what we do since most of the time; we will find a reason or a motive to improve it.
The objective of this article is to explain 3 keys that can help you stop blaming yourself for everything, and in this way, improve your personal well-being.
Relativize the importance of guilt
The feeling of guilt is, in principle, healthy. Experiencing it when you’ve hurt someone or when you’ve made a mistake is a good sign; it means you have a conscience.
Inevitably, sometimes we act wrong and end up hurting others. In those cases, guilt alerts us to the need for repair. However, sometimes self-reproach goes beyond what is reasonable, and that is when pathological guilt appears.
We can be responsible for something negative that has happened to us, but that doesn’t mean that we have to feel eternally guilty. The feeling of guilt is likely to last over time, but what we cannot do is continually martyr ourselves.
Something that helps me a lot to minimize the importance of guilt is to see it as a learning opportunity. In those cases, I ask myself what happened and what I can do to avoid making a mistake again.
We must consider guilt as a learning factor, never as eternal condemnation. For a while, it is normal to feel bad, but it is not something that should last throughout our lives.
The next time you feel guilty about something, think about how you can fix it. This way, your brain will focus more on a solution than just failure. Some errors can be resolved with a pardon; others require you to pay or learn to correct them.
For example, one thing I feel guilty about lately is losing money on terrible investments. Instead of going on all day thinking I was “stupid” for making a poor trade, I write everything I did on a notepad and analyze if my mistake can be statistically avoided.
But what happens when we made a mistake that we can’t correct? There is nothing that should lead us to think that the simple fact that we feel bad is why we should suffer.
In nature, rewards and punishments do not exist beyond human imagination. — Aurturo Torres
For events that cannot be avoided, there is no logical reason to blame ourselves for it. They are things we cannot control. Something that helps me accept them is to see everything that I achieve thanks to that mistake. Since in one way or another, they always make us grow.
Put the facts in perspective.
One mechanism that perpetuates guilt is to think that we would have acted differently if we could go back in time. However, you must realize that you made the decision that you thought was most appropriate at that moment with the knowledge you had and the circumstances that surrounded you.
Everyone has their imperfections. This means not everyone can do anything in their life. In some things, you are good, and others only if you have a lot of practice or knowledge.
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” — C.S. Lewis
In this case, I stop thinking about what I could have done and start thinking about what I can do to avoid making this mistake again. This helps me stop blaming myself for what happened and start thinking of the mistake as a learning factor.
To do that, you can ask yourself the following questions:
- What can I learn from this event?
- What can I do to be prepared next time?
We cannot predict that something will happen to us the first time, but those mistakes can prepare us for the next time not to do it again. Bernard Meltzer once said:
When you forgive, in no way do you change the past, but you certainly change the future.
Reflect on your relationship with the environment
Many times, when we feel guilty, it is for something that happens around us. For example, not completing a task that you have been working hard on from falling asleep.
In this case, the fault is not directly because of falling asleep, but you couldn’t achieve what you want because of that mistake. Although falling asleep is not bad, not do what you wanted affects your mood.
But instead of blaming ourselves, we must consider whether the realization of that goal is affecting our mental or physical health in any way. Often, we set goals too high, and not achieving them can give us anxiety or depression.
In this case, it is not your fault. It would help if you analyzed whether the reasons why you made a mistake have to do with overvaluing something you are going to do. In this case, you should make a plan to simplify it instead of sacrificing your rest time.
One thing that makes me feel guilty, which has more to do with the environment than with me, is no exercising on the day I have to. I have realized that I feel guilty because I think that if I skip it one day, I will never achieve my goal.
But according to several sources, skip a workout one day, is, in fact, healthy. We must listen to our body and understand that when it does not want to do something, it is for a reason.
Something that helps me understand I am not guilty of mistakes that happen around me is to ask myself:
- Am I completely guilty of what happened? Then I write everything I could do to avoid committing it again.
- What can I do to fix that situation? In this case, I reorder assignments to meet my goals without exhausting myself.
- What are the consequences of having made that mistake? Normally, they are not as big as our minds think. And it is only by analyzing them we realize it.
Usually, we feel guilty about things that are not even worth it, and seeing all that we have achieved so far shows us that we are better than we think. For example, if I avoid exercising one day, I won’t lose all my progress.
There is a big difference between feeling responsible and feeling guilty. When we take responsibility for what we have done and the effects of these actions, we can accept the mistake without devaluing ourselves as a person.
It is very different to think that we are guilty to think that we are responsible for a negative action; they are just a warning sign that we must change something.
You’ve made a mistake? Relax, you are normal. Everyone makes them, and feeling guilty about them for a moment is fine. But we must not punish ourselves for them. Instead of seeing them as a reason to be sad, look at them as an opportunity to improve.
Mistakes are a great way to learn. If we didn’t realize that we were failing, we would never grow as people. Perfection does not exist, and ignoring that we are not perfect is worse than take responsibility for our mistakes.