The bleak despair of a child who was taught making mistakes was shameful

Autumn is always a time of self reflection for me. Maybe its because we start the school year in September and so it will ever be associated with new learning, new beginnings and new hope. And also, its a time of fear. For every new beginning means a new risk of not fitting in. Every new learning means the chance to get it wrong. Every new hope can be cruelly dashed.

When you are shamed as a child because you made a mistake, you try never to make another mistake again.  If you had a parent or caregiver or teacher who shamed you when you got something wrong, then as an adult you try everything, including opting out to never experience that horrible rush of sensation again.

The physical sensations we feel when we mess up are excruciating. The sickeningly hot flush, the sweat prickles in our underarms, sweaty palms, twisting gut pains, shaking, stammering, the burning hot face, neck and chest.

The mental and emotional sensations are just as harrowing, our rational self has left the building and in its place is a primitive quivering mass, frozen, wanting to hide, wanting to run or failing that, wanting to start a fight. A distraction from the mistake, anything will do. Panic sets in, our thought process has been disengaged and we regress to a powerless child who doesn’t know what to do.

This powerful body, mind and soul reaction is etched deep into our psyche, and it rarely loses its grip without work; without effort and energy being devoted to self discovery, self healing and self loving.

This is a tough process to work on alone, but it can be done. I think we all need help, guidance in letting go of that critical judgement, of releasing that shame that was never yours to begin with.

And the very first step is to realise that you are not alone. Every single person on the planet has made mistakes, even those who judged you so harshly in your early years made their own mistakes. We all make mistakes as part of our lives, part of our growth. We have all, every one of us, said, thought, felt and done things we now regret.

Know this: our worth, your worth, my worth is not dependent on being perfect.

I thought, for far too many years, that I had to be perfect to be accepted, to be valued, to be loved. I tried to be the perfect daughter. I tried to be the perfect girlfriend. I tried to be perfect in whatever role I thought my audience expected me to play. And I was always far from perfect and then I judged myself for failing and then my self worth fell even lower.

If we can stop judging our mistakes so harshly, we can also stop ourselves from the reactive negative cycle of never being perfect and constantly beating ourselves up for it.

Because here’s a secret: we’re all doing the best we can. Even those who judged you, those who hurt you were doing their best. It might not have been any good at all, but it was the best they had to offer. Whether your parents or caregivers were kind or abusive, they were doing the best they could in light of their own limitations. That can be hard to hear, but its true. It just means they hadn’t a hope of being any better than they were and we fell foul of their shortcomings.

Realise too, that no matter what your behaviour was, you did the best you could every day of your life. Maybe you have fallen short of the standard you’ve set for yourself, maybe you’ve made many mistakes, and yet, you have absolutely done the very best you were capable of at that time.

And maybe you’re still repeating some mistakes you’ve made over and over in your mind. They are many incidents I would love to do over, to replay and have them go differently this time. To take back some rotten things I said or did, to do better in an interview, to stand stronger in the face of bullying, to step forward into the spotlight instead of hiding.

The past no longer exists except as images we replay in our minds. We can’t change the past, we can stop making the same mistakes and release the hurtful emotional charge attached to those painful memories. By focusing on what we can do now in the present, by reviewing our past mistakes with self compassion and forgiveness, we can start to heal and rebuild our fractured sense of self worth.

We live and we learn and then we do better.  Life can and usually does get better over time. We stumble, we fall and then we learn to stand and walk. We evolve. We rise and fall. We fail and we grow. We progress onward and upwards.

If you pay attention and strive to always improve, you become stronger, clearer, wiser and much more capable than you were even the day before. Make your life a process of rediscovering your value. To discover your worth, you have to go inside. Its not an external thing, its not the size of your house or the flashiness of your car. You create your worth through the person you are, how you think, what you do.

Every day you will be given the opportunity to feel that old shame of making a mistake, or not being perfect. Its your job to release this shame, to refuse to accept it, to not take it on, to know that there is never any shame in making a mistake. The shame is in staying still, being small, not trying, not taking the risk. The shame is in ridiculing others for doing what you dare not.

Even when we don’t feel very kind, or brave or deserving, we must remember the practice of self compassion and know that just a little courage takes us forward to the life we want to live, to being the person we want to be. The sun shines on us all, whether we think we deserve it or not. Our chairs keep supporting us, the roof over our head shelters us from storms. Life is indiscriminate, neither fair nor unfair. When we judge, when we expect, when we blame; those thought patterns keep us stuck..

Life is a gift and we ought not spend it in bitterness and regret. You can make the choice every day to spend that day in gratitude. To allow love, compassion and kindness to shine from you and to bestow your gift to everyone you meet, including the person looking back from the mirror.

Anger release and forgiveness is a clinical hypnosis process that powerfully and instantly releases old shame, grief and bitterness, freeing you from its stranglehold. Allowing you to move on without those anchors holding you down, dragging you back. Do yourself a favour and set yourself free. Contact Cynthia for a consultation today.


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