We are not our mistakes

We are not our mistakes, and we are not defined by our past.

Mistakes are simply that, mis-takes. They’re times we’ve tried, and it just hasn’t worked out so well.

Too often we hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard of perfection that, in reality, is only possible on the silver screen.

In making movies, each scene is shot time and time again, the mis-takes simply become another opportunity to do it better, to do things differently. The mis-takes do not become part of the final product, and are left on the cutting room floor.

There have been many times when I wished I could have had a do-over. Many unskilled or mean comments, foolish actions, and blunders, are left in my wake.

While I’m grateful Facebook and Twitter weren’t around in my youth, my internal critics did a fine job of keeping a vivid record.

In the past, my Committee of Internal Critics, which I lovingly call my Committee of A***oles, would hold high court in my mind when I blundered.

No one could have been as hard on me as I was. The hamster-wheel of horrible thoughts only made the situation worse, as my body, mind, and emotions turned into an internal battlefield.

I didn’t need anyone to tell me I’d screwed up. My internal committee had the cruellest panel of judges you could imagine. I endured days of self-torture, self-chastising, worrying, and wishing I had a chance for a do-over.

Sometimes shame immobilized me, causing me to withdraw in pain.

So many times, I wished for a second chance to do things differently, to do better.

I would never have been as unkind and mean to others as I was to myself. I certainly didn’t cut myself any slack.

Back then, I didn’t know I wasn’t my past, I wasn’t my mistakes. Each and every moment is a new moment, a chance to begin again.

I’ve worked with people who’ve carried self-judgment and shame from youthful blunders into their senior years. These beautiful, good, kind people mortified are still paying an internal price for mis-steps, and things they’ve done in the past.

I hear people being so hard on themselves for mis-steps, failures, and mis-takes.

When we know better, we do better.

But, how do we start to move past the memory of mistakes when the mind is so tenacious?

It helps to begin with compassion and self-forgiveness.

Letting ourselves off the hook for past mistakes, and holding ourselves with compassion, are often the most challenging practices a person can undertake. We can demonstrate kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to others, but this same charity has to begin at home.

As we turn toward ourselves with an attitude of self-forgiveness and compassion, we can make amends where we need to, and free ourselves from the tethers of the past. We can learn what needs to be learned, and move on. When we know better, we do better.

Holding our bruised egos, our regret and pain as tenderly as we would cradle a precious infant, leads us to healing and change more powerfully than engaging in brutal self-judgment.

We are able to make desired changes much more easily when we are gentle, patient, and kind with ourselves, treat ourselves with compassion, and practice self-forgiveness.

We have more life energy and joy to share with the world as we shed the burden of our mistakes. Self-forgiveness and self-compassion are unheard of for many, but these practices benefit our mental, emotional, and physical health. They open us to living life more freely.

Compassion is a powerful practice. Compassion is being studied at Stanford University, and the findings are anything but soft.

Research reveals people who practise compassion experience lower levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and body pain. They have improved immunity, greater resilience, and overall improved mental health. Compassion reduces burnout.

We are happier as we leave the mis-takes on the cutting room floor and move on.

We are not our mistakes; we are always at a new moment to choose again. As we hold ourselves in compassion and forgiveness, we release the tethers of the past and we open to the new possibility of today.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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