Image Credits: Aziz Acharki
No matter how crappy your life may be, chances are that you’re making it worse for yourself. I’m not talking about the fact that you’re a bit lazy, or a bit unmotivated; that you regularly make poor decisions or that you don’t give it your all, instead blaming everyone else for your problems. For some of you, many of the things I just named will ring true. For some of you, they won’t.
Maybe you are super motivated. Maybe you have your shit together and are on the track to success. Even if this is the case, I’m willing to bet that there’s still something holding you back from your fullest potential. And that something is you. I believe one of the biggest challenges we face as human beings is finding it within us not to punish ourselves for our mistakes.
Some of us punish ourselves for even the smallest infractions. We find ourselves in a moment of weakness, make the wrong call, and then later have to deal with the consequences. Maybe you couldn’t stick to your diet. So then you decide to go all in and pig out as a way of punishing yourself for not being strong enough to stick to it. ‘Oh, you want a donut huh? Here, eat a whole damn box you fatty.’
Or you screwed up your last relationship, so you decide to swan dive into weeklong binge drinking fests, mixed with random stranger sex that you hope was protected, because you can’t actually remember most of it. We make mistakes, and then we punish ourselves – usually by doubling down on the poor decision we just made.
It reminds me of how (at least on TV), parents used to force their children to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes inside a broom closet if they were caught smoking them. The idea being that we’ll feel so disgusted afterwards, that we won’t ever want to do it again. Does it work? Not in my experience. In fact, I’ve never seen one punishing him or herself lead to anything but further pain.
Especially when we’re punishing ourselves for huge fuckups. We all make them. You know, that one thing that you would literally give anything to be able to redo or take back. When we mess up something that means a lot to us, it hurts us on a deep level. And if we then go and kick ourselves while we’re down, you damage the soul. I mean hell, if you won’t even be compassionate to yourself, then you really are alone.
Your reality darkens and you begin to change into someone that you really don’t want to be. Being so aggressively negative with yourself will be the end of you. It will put you into a hole so deep, that it will take everything you have to crawl back out of. And that’s not a place you want to be.
Instead of punishing yourself, you need to learn to forgive yourself. That doesn’t mean you need to forget. In fact, you should never forget. Not like you could if you wanted to anyway… Remember the mistakes so you don’t repeat them, but use them to grow. Not to hurt yourself into becoming a better person. Hurting someone, even if it’s only yourself, will never lead to you becoming a better person.
1. Forgive yourself for being lost.
Those who believe themselves to be found are just fooling themselves. There is no being found; you’re always a bit lost. And that’s okay – more than okay in fact; it’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. You’re not meant to know what you’re doing in this life because if you did, you wouldn’t want to do it. Without surprise, life is scripted.
Without uncertainty, you’d lose interest. So don’t beat yourself up for not knowing whom you are or what you’re meant to be doing. You’re not meant to know. You’re meant to spend your life getting to know yourself, getting to know life. You’re meant to spend your life searching, learning, growing and becoming the person you’re meant to be – becoming… well, you.
2. Forgive yourself for being weak.
Weakness is only a weakness if you choose to ignore it instead of accepting it. If, instead, you choose to see it for what it is, room for growth, you turn weakness into potential strength. Then you work on turning that potential strength into actual strength, and before you know it, that which started off as a weakness is now one of your strongest assets.
Never blame yourself for being weak. You can, however, blame yourself for allowing yourself to remain weak. For allowing yourself to never face your fears, to never stand up for yourself, to never put in the work necessary to make strength a reality. Forgive yourself for not having the strength when you needed it, but work to make sure you never find yourself in that position again.
3. Forgive yourself for not living up to your own expectations.
The fact is that sometimes our best just isn’t enough. Sometimes putting in the hours, putting in the work, the effort, the time and sweat, isn’t enough to win. How many of you have in your life, if only once, honestly and truly given it your all, only to fall flat on your face? Still feel the bruises?
Growing up we’re taught that we can do anything that we put our minds to. And I honestly believe that to be the case. With enough time and focus, you can literally do anything you want. Problem is that we don’t always have enough time, or enough focus to spare, to achieve those goals. And coming to understand this reality can be a hell of a wakeup call. Forgive yourself for not being where you want to be. But remain excited that the best part of the journey is still ahead of you!
4. Forgive yourself for hating yourself.
‘Love yourself’, we’re told. ‘We’re human beings, and even though we make mistakes, we should love ourselves…’ While true, often that’s easier said than done. I don’t know about you, but I’ve done some incredibly shitty things in my life. I’ve hurt people close to me, good people, loving people, people that cared about me, simply because I wasn’t in a good mood.
I’ve lied. Or worse yet, used the truth to hit people where it really hurts: their own insecurities. I’ve hurt people, even those I’ve loved, on purpose. I’ve literally broken the heart of the one woman I’ve ever really loved, half a dozen times. What a fucking scumbag huh? You’re not wrong; I certainly can act like a piece of shit at times. But I’m only human. I mess up and then I try not to repeat it.
For quite some time I hated myself for making those mistakes. Hating yourself is… complex. You’re not always able to understand that you do. Or why you do. Worse yet, you then begin to hate yourself for hating yourself! How crazy does that sound? Positivity & negativity come with compound interest. So before you can love yourself, forgive yourself for not loving yourself. That’s the first step.
5. Forgive yourself for not knowing how to love and for breaking her heart.
No matter how much you fuck things up, understand that there is always another opportunity to change things for the better. Each day brings new possibilities to steer things in a brighter, better direction. I know how dark things can get… the suffocation you feel when you realize that you were the reason things didn’t work out. That you were the reason the best thing that ever happened to you is no longer within touching distance.
Love is not natural. It feels natural, but in reality we aren’t born understanding romantic love. Or rather, we may understand it when we experience it, but certainly aren’t born with the knowledge of how to make a romantic relationship work. I don’t know about you, but I certainly never had a class in grade school that helped me deal with the emotions I was having, that taught me how to properly treat my partner, that taught me how to love.
I didn’t know how to love back then. I wish I did, just as I’m sure you wish you could go back, slap yourself in the face and tell yourself to get your shit together, because he or she is the best thing that will ever happen to you. But that’s not how life works. Life may be a brutal teacher, but it’s a teacher nonetheless. The only question is: are you open to learning? If so, then you need to first learn to forgive yourself for the way you treated them. Never forget, but move on and find another to treat the way you should have treated her.