Learning From Your Mistakes

A couple weeks ago, I got the best compliment I think I’ve ever received. It was from my brother (honestly this says a lot more about him than it does about me….) but he said, “Chelsey is really good at evaluating her past and learning from it. She takes notice of what she did wrong and works hard to be better which is one of the best qualities you can have.” I don’t mean to say this so you guys can know how “self-aware” I am… I don’t know how true this actually is, but it really touched me and made me think. I never really thought about the deeper meaning and importance of that concept… learning from our mistakes… because a lot of times, we don’t.

I started to wonder why this is. Why do we make the same mistakes twice? I’ve been realizing how impatient I get when I, or someone else, makes the same mistake twice… or even worse, three times. It infuriates me which i’m sure is a normal reaction.

It’s always been a challenge for me to not stress about “wasting” time, energy, or material items. I drive fast, I take shortcuts whenever possible, It pains me to not always take the rest of my food at a restaurant to-go…. and I really hate making the same mistake twice because that’s time and energy wasted.

This is where my anxiety came from while I was struggling with an eating disorder… I was stuck in a continuous cycle and it pissed me off. I couldn’t stop bingeing. I couldn’t stop slipping up. I was making the wrong decision over and over and I felt hopeless. So many gym sessions I thought were wasted, so many hours on the treadmill gone…. because I binged. I felt like my whole life was wasting away and I was getting NO WHERE.

Then it clicked.

I was in a cycle of “sin and punish myself. Sin and then punish myself” 

I had to understand something: forgiveness. 

Forgiveness and acceptance was the only way out of that cycle. 

We feel so inclined to punish ourselves when we have done something “wrong” or “shameful” or “disappointing” according to our standards. We punish ourselves in different sabotaging ways... using substances, food, habits, people, etc.

I was the queen of this (still can be sometimes). I was so comfortable with suffering and beating myself up because it was all I knew! It was so easy for me to tell myself “Oh there I go again, I will never get better, I will never reach my goals. I knew it.” What kind of lame attitude is that?

Often we think that in order to “learn from” our mistakes we need to be punished and beat ourselves up over them and we need to remember that hurt and disappointment and use it as fuel & motivation. I practiced this “self-discipline” technique my whole life. Looking back, however, it honestly didn’t make me feel “motivated” at all. It just made me feel anxious and less confident.

But now, I know. I know what it really means to “learn from your mistakes.” It means to FORGIVE yourself. It means to let go of any emotional attachment to the past. It means having compassion for yourself and forgiving yourself for your words, actions, or habits, learning from them, and then moving forward in a new light.

Don’t beat yourself up for thinking certain thoughts or feeling certain emotions, just work through them.

I saw a quote from @ShamanDurek today that describes this best:

“The true sin is to deny love.”

I don’t think I’m a master at learning from my mistakes by any means… but I have definitely gotten a lot better over the last couple years. I will say now I pride myself in being able to get through stressful situations without getting super depressed, riled up, or hopeless. My bounce-back time is pretty minimal now.

I had to stop taking everything in life so personally. I used to be suuuuch a baby. Always victimizing myself and feeling like I always got the short end of the stick. That did me no favors. I started to understand that nothing that happened in life, happened because of me. Even if someone were to say “Chelsey, you are the ugliest, meanest person I have ever met.” Something I said could have triggered this emotional response but they didn’t say what they said because of me… they said that because that is their belief based on their metrics, upbringing, opinions, and beliefs.

It clicked in my head that life wasn’t happening TO me and it wasn’t happening FOR me, either. Life was just happening! I had to take my ego out of every situation.

If you take your ego out of the picture, you are no longer blinded by your fears - your fears of not being good enough, not being accepted or loved, not being the best - and you can better yourself and your situation.

I think learning from your past and admitting when you were wrong are vital traits to have. It shows humility and it’s how you grow as an individual. You will connect better with people this way, as well.

I’m learning to forgive myself and love myself even after I mess up for the 10,000th time. It can be VERY frustrating and discouraging... but I’m twice as likely to improve when I come from a place of complete acceptance and encouragement. No one likes to be nagged so don’t nag at yourself.

When you mess up, just don’t take it so personally. Evaluate the situation and start problem solving. No need to put so much attachment and emotion into every action. Laugh it off, this usually works for me. I make a joke about how stupid I think it is, or how dumb I feel and then I let it go and move on with my life!

As cliche as it may sound, I now try to see everything that happens in my life as an opportunity to learn. This makes bad situations seem challenging and exciting rather than damning.

So next time you mess up, accept that it happened and that you can’t go back in time - there is no such thing as time wasted. Study your actions and how you could do better next time, then forgive yourself and work hard towards that “next” time.

Use this approach of patience with others as well, it’s a game changer for relationships.

chelsey gustafsonComment