child with hands over faceWe know that we all make mistakes, but often we’re shocked when we actually do. Mistakes are part of the game on planet Earth. Here’s a shift in perception that helps you respond to them with more grace and acceptance.

The other day, I sent out an email to my entire email list that was intended for only 10% of it. Yeesh. I was embarrassed and worried what people would think. I berated myself for not checking more carefully before I hit send.

But then I stopped. I’m a recovering Perfectionist (after all, I’m a Virgo!). It’s an old pattern of mine to be really hard on myself for mistakes. You, too? By reflecting on my reactions to my error, I shifted myself out of that pattern by acceptance and changing my expectations. Here are my insights.

What is a Mis-Take?

A mistake is much like those outtakes that you see from movies – the bloops and scenes gone wrong. In the filming industry, it’s expected – that’s why they say, “scene 1, take 1”. They know that people will mess up, forget their lines, deliver them wrong, or unexpected things can happen and they need a do-over. 

You can have a similar attitude about your mis-takes. Look at it as take 1, or take 15 – whatever. We’re all expected to make these mis-takes here on planet Earth. For some of your mis-takes, you may even be able to have a sense of humor about them, just like those outtakes we see from our favorite movies. 

Our Spiritual Journey into Form

Yes, we actually came here, from a spiritual perspective, to have the opportunity to make mistakes. This is our playground and our experimental lab as spiritual beings. You can’t beat coming into physical form for opportunities to learn what works and what doesn’t.

So we chose to come here so that we could make mistakes and learn about them. We could try new things and explore ways to create, change, and transform. The spirit world just doesn’t compare to the opportunities in a physical world such as ours to explore relationships, test our physical limits, learn about boundaries, discover the senses, and how to be mindful in our choices. 

Appreciate that you were not coming here to be perfect – you came here to learn, explore, challenge, and miss the mark sometimes.

The Idea of Perfection

We are so hard on ourselves when we make an error – even small ones. We can really beat ourselves up for blurting out something that may have been inappropriate or messing up our checkbook (yeah, I still use one!). And we can be absolutely ruthless and unforgiving when we make a bigger mistake.

I believe that we beat ourselves up so badly because we have a conscious or unconscious expectation of perfection. Perfection is a human-created idea, not Divine. The Divine is beyond any human ideas of perfect or imperfect; it transcends definition. But we have created this “perfect” idea and then project it on Spirit, and project that expectation on ourselves.

If we didn’t expect perfection in ourselves, we could embrace the times when we mess up, consider how we would like to change, what we learned from the experience, and then move on. It’s the attachment to perfection – that we should never ever make those mistakes – that causes our suffering.

Then, that shame continues the suffering. The more we shame ourselves, the less confident we’ll feel in our next endeavor, which sets up the likelihood that we’ll make another mistake and the cycle starts all over again.

Let go of the idea of “perfect” and your expectations around it. That’s been a big game-changer for me in how I respond when I make a mistake.

Learn from Your Mistakes?

I do have a caveat, though, about the idea of “learning from your mistakes.” Sure, it’s a great idea – we all want to learn and to do better. But there’s also an implication that we should “never do that again.”

Well, unfortunately, that’s not how it often rolls. Even us “spiritual people” have repeated mistakes – spirituality is messy. It’s not the first time that I sent out an email by mistake. I’ve made lots of mistakes as a parent, admittedly repeating some of them. You probably have repeated certain mistakes when you have sworn you’d never do them again. 

We’re going to learn new and different things even when we make a similar mistake again. It’s OK. It’s part of how life goes. You can have the intent to not repeat it, but please don’t hold that one over your head. Be gentle with yourself; learning and growing here on planet Earth is a tall task, not taken lightly! Do the best you can, and know that it really varies what your “best” is from moment to moment.

Forgiveness is Built-In

Because we literally came here to explore and be willing to make mistakes, forgiveness is built-in. The Divine isn’t judging us; we are. 

Yes, we can learn from what we’ve done; it’s part of what is exciting about being in the physical world. No need to beat ourselves up for mistakes, though. Why intentionally come here to be able to make mistakes if forgiveness isn’t also part of the deal?

Forgiving ourselves (and others) is about releasing the past from continuing to impede on our present. We can forgive and learn, while letting go of ruminations, regret, and self-rejection. When we forgive, we are able to move forward into who we are becoming, not flogging ourselves with what we did.

The Keys to When You Make Mistakes

Remember these keys to changing your response when you make a mistake. When you do something “wrong” or in error, it’s like a mis-take in your own movie of life. Give yourself all the “takes” you need. We came into form in order to have the freedom to be able to explore, which includes mistakes. Perfection isn’t a Divinely-held measuring stick; it’s a human-created concept that doesn’t really exist. 

Accept yourself, release those expectations, and if you repeat a mistake, it’s par for the course. Know that you’re already forgiven. Release the judgment and allow yourself the freedom to keep exploring, learning, and growing through this lifetime and beyond. 

What are your insights about making mistakes? Share them here.

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