“What was I thinking?” is a question we frequently ask ourselves.
We all have things in the past that we wish we could change. Sometimes, a time-travel machine seems to be the perfect solution to our most complex problems.
We might not necessarily regret our past actions, but we do ponder what would have happened if we hadn’t done this or that.
He said: “If you went back and fixed all the mistakes you’ve made, you’d erase yourself.”
Louis C.K. has truly inspired me with his words.
You see, when I ask myself, “What was I thinking?”—I can come up with plenty of conclusions. Maybe I wasn’t thinking at all when I made a particular mistake. And sometimes, I don’t even remember what I was thinking.
But I do know one thing for sure: my life wouldn’t have unfolded the way it has now, if I hadn’t made certain mistakes. I wouldn’t be who I am today, if it weren’t for the wrong things I’ve done—my mistakes have shaped who I am. They’ve shaped my life.
My inner development is testament to all the good that’s happened—and also, most importantly, all the bad.
No one enjoys making mistakes, because having to live with guilt is arduous. What’s worse is that sometimes we identify our mistake after time goes by, and we realize that it might be too late to fix it. The sad thing about the past is that we can’t go back to it and change it. But the good thing about it is that it serves as a bridge to the future.
As Louis C.K. said, if we fix the mistakes we made, we would erase ourselves. Erasing a mistake from the past erases a part of us from the present. As hard as it sounds, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for the bad decisions we have made.
Because the truth is, every failed decision is still a success. Failure is another word for success, but we don’t usually discern this, because we put so much focus on the negative side of the equation.
Instead of looking at the sum, we must look at the result. If we behold our own evolution, we’d see that it started somewhere. Plants were seeds at first—without seeds, there wouldn’t be a beautifully grown plant. Our mistakes are our seeds—without them, we wouldn’t grow.
The wrong we’ve done in the past should open our eyes to the right we must do in the future. Regret is not meant to stay with us, or else it might destroy us—regret is meant to transform into lessons.
To put it differently, we veer off course, so we can learn how to get back on track.
This is why we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for our mistakes:
This is how much you knew. We must understand that this is how much we knew when we made a particular mistake. Understanding our own ignorance opens the door to wisdom.
Right feeling at the right time. Not only should we understand our ignorance, but we must also understand our own emotions. What we felt at that moment was the right emotion. If we were faced with the same situation again, the same range of emotions might arise. At the end of the day, we’re only humans with a wide range of reactions, which we often find it difficult to keep at bay.
We can’t change the past. But we can certainly trust it. Our past is the bridge to our present moment. What lies ahead and what lies behind are interdependent. One cannot exist without the other. Discern the events in your life, and you’ll see that without certain people or situations, your life would have been entirely different.
A practice of self-love. Accepting a mistake that we’ve done is a practice toward learning how to love ourselves with all our flaws. Imperfection is perfection in itself. Through making mistakes, we learn how to forgive ourselves, which is the most imperative element of self-love.
You are not your mistakes. We’re not the decisions that we make, hence we’re not our mistakes. We usually identify ourselves with what we think or what we choose. But, decisions are only part of our lives, not our whole life. Change your perception about how you view mistakes, and the mistakes you’ve made will automatically change in meaning and impact.
We can’t lead a perfect life. Bad things are prone to happen. In fact, they must happen, because without them, we won’t recognize the good. Your life might never be perfect, but you can perfect how you perceive your life.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Travis May
Social editor: Callie Rushton