Why do we make mistakes?
Let’s ask ourselves the following: have we ever made a mistake?
It could be a small mistake that’s easily fixed, like not saying something that we should say, or stepping on our cat’s tail without noticing. It could be a huge mistake that affects our entire life, like not going for that particular job, or keeping someone harmful in our life way past the due point.
Because chances are, when I asked the question, we answered, yes.
At the end of the day, we all make mistakes. We make mistakes so often that we have written multiple cliches about it, “You’re only human”, “to err is human,” so on and so forth.
So, okay. We’ve made mistakes. What are we going to do about them? Apologize?
There’s a thought. We tend to turn toward apologies whenever we do something wrong, but what happens when our mistakes are too large for a simple “I’m sorry”? What do we do when we’ve hurt someone so bad that we can’t be forgiven? What do we do when we haven’t hurt anyone except ourselves? What do we do when apologies don’t fix anything because what’s been lost is time, trust, or mental health, something that can never be fully returned?
When that happens, we tend to have two options.
First, we can wallow. We can remain in the knowledge that we f*cked up and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s irredeemable so why bother to make it better? We can continue making the same mistakes. We can continue hurting the people around us. We can continue hurting ourselves. We can become lost, stagnant, without growth, and we can do this without even fully realizing that’s what we’re doing. We can avoid confronting what happened, because what happened was uncomfortable and we don’t want to go back to that again.
I understand wanting to do that. It is a human thing to do. As the cliche goes, to err is human, and this is, most certainly, one of those errs.
There’s our second option: we can confront it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that we can make it better. We can’t fix something that is already broken, but we can try to build something new from the pieces that are left.
We can try to learn about what we did wrong. We can look back on it from a better, more mature vantage point. We can discuss our mistake with people, listen to what they have to say about it, try to expand our mind, and accept that we are not going to be correct 100 percent % of the time. We can learn, and by learning, we can grow. We can become better for our mistakes.
Maybe we had to keep that toxic person in our life for as long as we did so that we could set up boundaries and discover how we want to be treated in future relationships.
Maybe we didn’t go after that job because there was something that we needed to learn elsewhere before we could pursue it, even if it was something as simple as the significance that job has. Maybe we needed to know what an awful, soul-sucking job was like so that we could fully appreciate a different job.
Maybe we stepped on our cat’s tail, so that we can learn to watch where we’re going next time.
Things are going to go wrong. We have made many mistakes in the past, and we will make many mistakes in the future. But hopefully, the mistakes that we make in the future will be different mistakes from the ones we have already made.
Each mistake gives us a chance to learn something new, and it is up to us whether or not we want to utilize that opportunity. We don’t have to. We can allow ourselves to become beaten down by the knowledge that we aren’t perfect. We can become depressed because of it, or we can delude ourselves with stories of our own grandeur. But if we do that, then we don’t grow. We don’t become better; we stay the same. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with who we are, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t also become better.
At the end of the day, as long as we live, we still have time to make things better. We still have time to change because our lives are not over yet. We have opportunities, even if we do not see them yet. Who we are today does not have to be who we are tomorrow; we are ever-changing creatures. If we want to get that job, then we can go get that job—it does not matter if we are twenty years old, or fifty. There’s still time. And even if the only thing that we accomplish with it is that it makes us happier, then let’s do it, for god’s sake.
Even if our mistake is that we’ve spent too much time wallowing in our own mistakes, there is still time to change. All we need to do is confront who we are and what we have done, open our mind to other perspectives, and try to be patient, understanding, and humble when we talk to people about it. It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile.
We should not be afraid to seek out help if we need it—whether that be professional help like a therapist or a support group, or more personal help like a friend or a loved one. Sometimes, other people will give us a better perspective on where we are than we have because they come without our biases.
We all make mistakes. We all screw up from time to time. There’s nothing wrong or shameful in that. But, that doesn’t excuse us from our responsibility to learn from them and grow as human beings because of them.
Author: Ciara Hall
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina