Picture this, you are laying on the bed exhausted from the day and you are ready to sleep. Just as you settle in, your mind suddenly rewinds and brings up everything that you have ever done wrong. Sound Familiar?
Why does this happen?
Our brain is wired for survival, and from that mode, it is important to analyse all of the past events and identify mistakes, or in some cases, better arguments. The brain cannot help but look at how things could have been handled differently, it’s a matter of life and death for it. When we are occupied with our everyday stresses, our brain will not have the space to process this, and so only when we wind up the day, do these come back. Chance is that sometimes the issue of such great intensity may interfere with work/study.
So what can be done?
Either way, the answer is the same- Forgive yourself. People are easily critical of themselves- setting high standards and instantly judging when it is not done. Forgiveness need not mean ‘getting away’ with it but understanding it happened and hoping for a better future. Forgiveness will help let go and bring closure to that baggage you have been carrying around. It is always easier said than done. We will be able to even forgive other people, but forgiving ourselves is the most difficult thing to do.
Here are some steps that may help:
The first step is to admit things could have been handled differently- and just that. Accept the choice you made and that there are always other choices that could have been made. Taking responsibility means both the choice you made and the consequences that come with it. It does not mean labelling yourself as something because it wasn’t the best decision that was possible. Separate your value from the choice you made, while acknowledging the flaw in the actions done.
Making mistakes gives rise to uncomfortable feelings that we try to push away and distract from or push down and suppress them. They need to be felt. Often felt feelings are guilt and shame. While guilt is coming from the thought that “I am a good person and I made a mistake”, shame is associated with “I made a mistake, I am a bad person”. There is a very crucial difference between the two, which we discussed before. Guilt will help look at yourself with compassion saying “you made a mistake, that’s alright. I have faith that you can be better”. Shame will make you look at yourself with disgust and dissatisfaction that “you are terrible, you will never change”.
Sitting through the discomforting feelings will help us understand what we are feeling. When you identify feeling shame, explore your thoughts and see if you are blaming and labelling yourself. Actively change your thought to “ I made a mistake, accidentally. It is a normal thing for Humans to do”. Changing your self-talk will lead to an active change in your feelings towards yourself also.
When in a space of guilt, you would have taken responsibility for the action/choice while also looking at yourself with compassion and hope- It is a rather positive attitude. Feeling guilty mean you believe you are capable of so much better and you want yourself to be that person. Keeping in touch with this positive side of yourself, attempt to see what can be done to reconcile or repair what issue has occurred. If it cannot be truly resolved at all, apologise- to yourself and to them.
Having taken responsibility, looked at yourself with the hope to be better and resolving the issue, take a moment and see what has been learnt from this. Use this information to be better- Renew your life and grow.