Are you haunted by your past mistakes?

Do they prevent you from taking risks, knock down your self-esteem, or determine how you interact with others?

It is natural to hold onto our past mistakes as a way of self-preservation. For example, a toddler might learn the dangers of fire having touched a candle’s flame. The trauma of that mistake remains with the toddler who will, with all hope, demonstrate more caution around fire in the future.

So, when do your past mistakes turn into anxiety?

Past mistakes become your enemy when they culminate into an inner-critic. That critic often prevents you from finding peace with yourself and instead riddles you with anxiety.

The truth of the matter is, everyone will make mistakes in their life. Most of us will do it often.

To begin the process of overcoming your inner-critic it is important to realize that your anxiety does not spring from your actions but rather a negative way of thinking. In other words, the painful memory of a past mistake is what actually produces anxiety.

How to Push Back When the Inner-Critic Speaks Up

You can reorient your negative thinking in two powerful ways. The first is to begin labeling those critical voices. When you can find the source or give a face to your inner-critic, you will find them to be much more manageable and separated from your actions.

If you begin to feel anxious, ask yourself: Whose voice am I hearing? Have I heard this voice in my head before and when?

The second action you can take against your inner-critic is to begin adding daily affirmations. Affirmations, no matter how much or little you initially believe in them, are proven to boost self-esteem and deter negative thoughts.

Write a few on a Post-it note and stick it to your bathroom mirror. Or, have a few mantras memorized that you can recite to yourself during the morning commute. These affirmations will empower you to recognize the benefits of past mistakes.

What Are Some Positive Ways of Thinking About Past Mistakes?

1. They teach you about what you truly want in life and how you are going to live it.

Mistakes are how you can learn not just about how to stay alive but also how you want to live. You can become better acquainted with your inner values and desires every time you fail.

For example, if you felt ashamed of a drunken argument that ended your last relationship, you can ask yourself what that mistake taught you about what you do want in a relationship. Those desires could be better communication skills, or finding a partner who encourages a healthier lifestyle.

2. They make you more resilient and willing to take risks.

Over time, you will mess up but life continues. Though some mistakes have greater consequences than others, you generally make it out of every bad experience and look to a future.

So, instead of dwelling on how that mistake made you feel ashamed or dumb, think of how you recovered from it. Your mistakes shouldn’t hold you back but rather encourage you to keep trying! 

3. They inspire yourself and others.

Sure, some of your mistakes are pretty embarrassing and even shameful, but they are also great motivational tools. Looking back on who you were then and now should make you feel proud and can inspire others to keep looking towards the future.

4. They encourage you to become more compassionate.

Congratulations! You, like the rest of us, are human. Rather than think of mistakes as a thing that alienates you from others, know that your mistakes, your imperfections are what actually brings you together with others.

In fact, your mistakes teach you to be patient and compassionate with yourself and others. Because you understand how it feels to fail, you are better equipped to help others up when they too stumble.

Granted, your past mistakes might feel like anchors that tether you to your imperfections. However, with a bit of retraining toward your feelings about past mistakes, you can find an inner peace that propels you forward, instead of hold you back.

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