Like everybody else, I’m haunted by my past and worried about my future. 70% of my memories of the past are of the mistakes I’ve made, ways in which I just failed to meet those standards. Do you remember doing something that is so obviously wrong to you now but that you thought was perfectly alright in the past? Me too. A lot. Too many times. And the memory of these mistakes makes me shudder like I would at the sight of a ghost. So I’ve been asking myself, how can I learn to face these ghosts without fear?
Make More Mistakes?
Things that are closer appear bigger than those far away. You’ll remember your most recent mistakes more clearly than those far away in the past. The new ones will haunt you more severely. So one quick and easy way to forget about that one time that you walked around the entire school with a stain on your shirt is to embarrass yourself in a new and bigger way. Do something so embarrassing that you laugh at yourself for even remembering the old one. The new mistake will overshadow the old one, make it seem small and insignificant.
Obviously, this is a horrible solution. You’ll end up being in a cycle of mistakes. You’ll do one thing, then to correct it, you’ll decide to make another mistake that’s even worse, and before you know it, you’re living recklessly and destroying everything in your path. You don’t want that. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Talk About Them?
That’s why a lot of people suggest therapy. It’s a way for you to face all those ghosts and finally stop being afraid of them. When you talk about the mistakes that are haunting you, you realize they’re not as big as you think they are.
But if you’re someone like me, when you talk about your mistakes, and the person you open up to doesn’t take it well, — if they criticize you, laugh at you, or give you that “I’m not your therapist so don’t talk to me” attitude — you’ll end up feeling even worse. They could also make you feel like you should be ashamed for even daring to talk about how horrible of a person you are. That would just make the ghosts that haunt you even bigger. Now, not only will you be dealing with the horror of your past mistakes, but you will also be dealing with the horror of the mistake you made in speaking up. Your ghosts will come to haunt you in pairs.
Get Comfortable Making Mistakes
I think the reason we sometimes struggle with the memories of our mistakes is because we haven’t yet convinced ourselves that mistakes are okay. You do something wrong and you begin to think it means that you’re a bad person or that you’re incompetent, or just not good enough. I like to believe that nobody is good or bad. Nobody is competent or incompetent. It all depends on the circumstances. Like I said, everybody has an equal amount of good and bad, and depending on the circumstances they’ll show their good or bad side.
Look, you’re human. You will make mistakes. It’s all part of the human experience.
Maybe, whenever you make a mistake, blame it on the circumstances, not yourself. So you wore the wrong outfit to the party? Blame it on the unfairness of having to wear a specific dress code. Blame it on the fact that you really didn’t have time to look for the perfect outfit. Blame it on anything else but yourself. Don’t let it make you think, “I did this and therefore I am a bad person.”
Get Comfortable With Your Ghosts
I mean, if they’re going to keep coming back to haunt you, you might as well make friends with them. Start saying, “Hey memory of the time I embarrassed myself in front of the whole class! How you doing? You enjoying your life out here? Frigg! Good to see you again!”
What do you do with friends? You don’t try to silence them at the back of your mind, do you? So whenever you remember that bad memory again, just be like, “Here we meet again, old friend. You’re not my favorite, but you’re a special one. Join me for tea?” And when you friend wants to leave, you just tell them the good old, “A bientot! Till we meet again!”
Don’t be afraid of these ghosts. They’re your friends. Just there to entertain you.
Cheers to life!
PS: I know this article has transcended the level of acceptable weirdness. A new ghostly friend for me!