On why we need to make Mistakes

Dear quarter lives,

I think most of us really hate making mistakes, but I must admit, there is definitely something to them.

You see, mistakes come in two levels depending on one’s level of self-awareness. The first level is when you make the mistake and don’t realise making it and can go on living like nothing happened, unless someone else brings it to your attention. The second level is when you make a mistake and know it in your bones. I don’t know about you but I find it so hard to sit with myself after realising I made a mistake, mainly because I find myself overwhelmed with regret and guilt that I can’t escape because I know that I know that whatever I did was wrong, and then I get stuck in a backward loop in time trying to reconctrust endless scenarios of all the other actions I could’ve taken instead of the one I actually took. It is only when I’ve exhausted myself of scenarios and find myself on mental repeat, that I finally decide to accept that I did in fact make a mistake and take responsibility for my mistake. It is only when I reach this state of full acceptance of my mistake and in turn myself that all the discomfort settles and I can finally see why I needed to make the mistake.

Any child can tell you that the reason we make mistakes is so we can learn from them. But what no child can tell you is what it is exactly we’re supposed to be learning from making mistakes. The child might offer an answer like “so I don’t do this again” or “so that I know how to do this the correct way next time”. But these aren’t really why we make mistakes, they’re just context. The real reason we get things wrong is so that we can learn how to love ourselves as the imperfect and flawed human beings we truly are. Mistakes are an opportunity for us to grow our muscle of love. It’s not only ourselves we learn to have compassion for by making mistakes, but others too. It’s what brings us closer to each other in our times of despair. It’s the fact that you’ve made a similar mistake that allows you to say to another “I feel you.” , when they’re confiding in you. You see we need to make mistakes to grow more in love with ourselves and others. We need to make mistakes to see where we still need to learn to love and give kindness. Mistakes show us where our judgements are still hard and resisting the softening power of love.

Mistakes help reveal us to ourselves, and in that process of revelation, we meet our boundaries — the things that feel wrong to us but perhaps not to another, so we learn to communicate those things that don’t sit right with us and in turn we learn to speak up for ourselves. And there is no greater act of self-love than speaking up for yourself! We need to make mistakes to realise what feels good to us and what feels bad. It is not about abiding by an overarching social or religious morality but rather about learning to respect our own values and sometimes we need to make mistakes to know exactly how we feel about certain things. Mistakes are like our little life exams that continue to hand us over from one level of love to the next.

For the longest time, I used to think that I needed to punish myself so that I don’t repeat any mistake twice. I thought punishment was the tool to use to exercise self-discipline. I didn’t know that punishment is a tool for self-hate. When we make mistakes, all we really need is a time-out to reflect. We just need time to sit in silence with ourselves, first to forgive ourselves for not being perfect, then to forgive ourselves for expecting ourselves to be perfect and finally to love that part of ourselves we realised we’ve been hating by making the mistake. And in that way, we learn to carry ourselves over from the darkness of shame into the light of learning and love.

We are all human. We make mistakes. We love. We get angry. We get scared. We act out of fear. We forget we are worthy. We fall down. We stand up again. We remember we are loved. We love again.

Embrace all of you! It is the imperfect parts of us that teach us most about our humanity. It is those parts that make our hearts grow and have the capacity to love all the parts of another.

So make mistakes. The important thing is not to deny them because when we deny our mistakes we can never claim responsibility for them. And if we can’t claim responsibility for them, we won’t be able to learn from them. We won’t grow. We will remain stuck in a loop of self-denial and self-hate.

Mistakes are a pathway for us to free ourselves from the shame of error. It is time we normalised error and celebrated its capacity to teach us. There is beauty in error. You just need to open your heart to embrace what error has to tell you.

With love and always for peace,

S.A.