How to forgive yourself
Let’s face it; we’ve all made mistakes. Including yours truly, who has made many. When I make a mistake, I feel awful, particularly as I’m a recovering perfectionist. And when others notice my mistake, I feel like I don’t want to exist anymore.
Rightsize your mistake
In recovery, a concept I’ve come across which has been beneficial is “rightsizing”.
Let’s say you accidentally send an embarrassing email to all of your company’s clients. Your colleagues are furious with you, and now you feel intense and crippling shame. You keep wishing that you could turn back time, but it is too late. You just want to bury your face in your hands and not be seen.
To rightsize something means to put it into perspective.
Here are some questions to do just that:
Is it the worst thing a human being has ever done?
Was it simply the wrong decision?
Was it something silly or something terrible?
Is there a chance you will be laughing and joking about this in a year’s time?
Won’t this blow over eventually?
Will this matter on your deathbed?
Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip papers
A useful saying to remember is “today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip papers”. It means that what’s important today, probably won’t matter as much over time.
If it’s hysterical, it’s historical
Another useful saying I learnt in recovery was “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical”.
I made a mistake recently by mass mailing an entrepreneurial group and thinking they’d be cool with signing them up for my blog to help hit my 10k blog subscriber target, given it was such a lovely supportive community and I felt I had contributed a lot. However, I was very mistaken. As a result, I was promptly removed from it by the administrator without warning. I felt immense shame, and I wanted to cry, if I am honest.
After reflecting on it more objectively, I was able to rightsize it. No, it is not the worst thing that a human being has ever done before. And, my part in it was that I was perhaps a bit selfish and inconsiderate, and in future, I’ll certainly be more careful in future.
After I rightsized my mistake, it became easier to forgive myself and to not blow it out of proportion either and to stop internalising the administrator’s reaction as me being the worst human being in the world who doesn’t belong anywhere. I also realised that it probably triggered my trauma from my childhood of feeling alien at school and being “cast out” of several different social groups.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It’s OK to make mistakse.
Without mistakes, we wouldn’t have lightbulbs for one. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed, I just found a 1,000 different ways that didn’t work”.
So forgive yourself, because you are perfectly imperfect. You will learn from your mistake, and you will hopefully not make it again.
Make amends and say sorry where you need to. Then most importantly, say sorry to yourself, and accept your apology to yourself.
Then move on.
About the Author
BSc (Hons), Dip. Coach (Accred), NLP Master Coach, MAC
Nick Hatter is an Accredited Life Coach and Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) Master Coach, and is certified in Positive Psychology Resilience Skills. He is an expert on well-being and is one of London's leading career and life coaches.
He has featured on BBC, Channel 4, Forbes, Metro, AskMen, HuffPost and more.