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How to Get Past Your Mistakes

5 min read  |  January 18, 2023  | 

You’re having a hard time, and lately, you don’t feel so good . . . 

It’s all right. Sometimes that’s what it takes

You’re only human; you’re allowed to make your share of mistakes.

– Billy Joel, “Only Human”

Billy Joel was right. Making mistakes – large and small – is part of the human condition. Viewed from the right perspective, mistakes can be stepping stones to a better life.

Let’s begin with stumbling blocks. 

One way to gauge if missteps impede your progress is to ask yourself if the same patterns keep happening, says Elisa Diaz, Psy.D., a psychologist with the University of Miami Health System. It’s not always easy to recognize or acknowledge patterns, but talk therapy can help break a negative behavior chain. 

“I tell clients, ‘You are speaking to a person trained to be non-judgmental and non-biased. I can see the whole picture from a different perspective,” says Dr. Diaz. 

Therapists teach you how to recognize and change behavior patterns and let you know when you’re too hard on yourself for past errors in judgment. 

You may also gain perspective from talking to a trusted friend who is a good role model for positive mental health.

Re-envision yourself

How do you re-envision yourself if your identity is wrapped up in your previous errors? Maybe you made poor choices that led to serious consequences and haven’t forgiven yourself. And your family and friends aren’t exactly supportive, either. 

Look for the stepping stones. 

“It’s really important for people to be mindful of the running commentary in their head if it is constantly negative. There are so many studies on the use of imagination for positive change. If we can envision how we want our lives to be, we can change,” says Dr. Diaz.

Think of athletes who “psych” themselves up, using positive visualization and self-talk before a big game. It takes practice to pivot from downcast to upbeat, but it gets easier with practice. 

Find the silver lining

So take it from me, you’ll learn more from your accidents

Than anything you could ever learn at school . . .

Billy Joel

“In happy times, we’re not learning and growing. My favorite part of mistakes is you get to learn and grow; there is a silver lining,” Dr. Diaz says. 

Coming up with a “Plan B” requires ingenuity and emotional resilience; mistakes can be a learning opportunity. Even if you can’t change the outcome, you can work on practicing patience and tolerance when things don’t go your way.

How do you begin to clean up a self-made mess? Again, talk therapy helps, but you can take steps on your own, too. 

“I like journaling. It forces you to take time to sit with yourself.

“Writing things out helps the brain process and gives your negative thoughts less power. If you write it out, you’re going to read it at least one more time. You may see things differently,” says Dr. Diaz. 

You can also use your journal to list everything you do right on any given day.

She also recommends meditation as a path to self-forgiveness. There are guided online meditations specifically designed to promote self-awareness and self-forgiveness. By learning to meditate, we also learn to pause, take a beat, and take a breath. Think of how many problems could be avoided if everyone had developed that skill.

 If your soul-searching shows that you need to apologize, consider scheduling a time to sit down with the person or write them an email or letter. It takes courage, and your apology might not be accepted, but you have no control over anyone but yourself. 

“Everyone has to be accountable for their own emotions,” Dr. Diaz says. Do what you can to start with a clean slate. 

The problem with perfectionism

On the opposite extreme, you might be someone who goes out of their way to avoid making mistakes. Dr. Diaz recommends having an honest conversation with yourself. 

“Perfection doesn’t exist. People will drive themselves to anxiety or depression if they are prone to perfectionism. People benefit from having a healthy relationship with themselves and giving themselves some grace.” 

The hazards of social media

Ever feel like you’re living under a microscope? If you spend a lot of time on social media, you are, in a sense. Every mistake is magnified with today’s 24/7 news cycle and multiple media platforms. 

“Social media is so not forgiving. It is there to judge,” says Dr. Diaz. 

Limit the amount of time you spend scrolling, commenting, and posting. You’ll have less time to worry about reactions to your last post and more time for IRL (in real life) activities.

To schedule a virtual or in-person appointment, call 305-243-0214


Nancy Moreland is a regular contributor to UMiami Health News. She has written for several major health care systems and the CDC. Her writing also appears in the Chicago Tribune and U.S. News & World Report.


Tags: accept responsibility, emotional intelligence, feeling guilt, guilt and shame, internal self awareness, learn from your mistakes, level of self awareness, negative emotions, negative feelings, practice self forgiveness, thoughts and feelings

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