The Liberating Art of Making Mistakes

Many parents waste a great deal of time and energy trying very hard not to make any mistakes, trying to hide the mistakes they did make, or feeling guilty about past mistakes and either beating themselves up over the mistakes or allowing someone else to beat them up about the mistakes. All of that energy is completely wasted. You cannot live your life without making any mistakes. It’s simply not possible and it’s an absolutely losing endeavor to undertake. You also cannot hide your mistakes indefinitely. Oh, you might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later, you’ll be caught and then you’ll not only have to acknowledge the mistake, but also whatever sneaking or lying you did to try to cover it up in the first place. Further, just feeling guilty about a mistake does absolutely nothing but prevent you from actually fixing anything. To continually wallow in the guilt over making mistakes paralyzes you and makes you unable to move forward, past the mistake. Finally, beating yourself up or letting someone else beat you up over your mistakes only results in leaving you debilitated, crushed, pulverized. A person in such a condition is not able to move on productively and solve problems.

We are all human. We all make mistakes. Some of us make lots of mistakes. Some of us make the same mistakes over and over and over. Some of our mistakes can have long-lasting, possibly permanent, consequences. Some of the consequences of our mistakes affect many people, not just ourselves. We, as parents, need to simply accept those as the facts. Accept that you will make parenting mistakes, some of them quite bad, some quite painful, and some you may repeat over and over. That’s just the way it is.

Now that you are able to accept that you’re going to make mistakes, now what? Well, now you are free to go about your business, making mistakes. Yes, that’s right. You are now free to live your life and make the mistakes that you’re going to make. How liberating! Now, does that mean that you should try to make mistakes? No, just that you should accept that you’re going to from time to time. Does this acceptance make all of your mistakes wonderfully okay? Nope, sorry. Your mistakes will continue to produce painful or embarrassing consequences, or they will at least inconvenience you or others. Accepting that you’re going to make mistakes does not free you from the consequences of those mistakes, only from the crippling guilt.

When you make mistakes now, as you will, what you must do is readily recognize when you’ve made an error, a bad judgment, a poor decision. When you see that you have made a mistake, just admit it. Admit it to yourself and to as many other people as were involved. Apologize to anyone you may have hurt, including yourself. Forgive yourself both for having made the mistake and for the consequences it brought you. Make a plan to try not to repeat that mistake in the future. Pause and reflect on what you learned through the experience. Open your mind to the possibility that your mistake may actually have benefited you in unexpected ways. Accept that you may end up getting opportunities that you ne

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