When someone else makes a mistake we usually understand, but we tend to have difficulty forgiving ourselves.
I used to deny mistakes, and sometimes I would blame others. Or sometimes I would sit in my mistakes for days, just to punish myself.
None of that worked very well, it just made everything worse.
So today I made a mistake, I was very late to pick up my daughter. Late enough that she had to go to the office.
I made a big mistake. I didn’t watch the time. It was definitely my fault.
So I had to feel it. That’s the hardest part, the feeling it. I had to sit with her and let her cry. I had to hold her as she let out all those feelings of being forgotten, even if it was only for 10 minutes.
She was right to feel that way. I would feel the same way. So I had to sit with her in quiet, I had to sit in the discomfort of being wrong.
I know there are worse experiences in the world. She was safe at school, she was with people, it ended up fine.
But that’s where we go wrong. We try to compare pain. We try to justify or disregard someone’s pain because it could have been worse.
But in that moment what she needed most was to be heard, not told why she shouldn’t be feeling it.
So I let her feel it. I didn’t blame or give an excuse. I just said, “Yes, this happened, and it was my fault, I’m so sorry, I love you.”
And when she eventually fell asleep, after lots of questions, talking, and apologies, I sat on the stairs and cried.
I worried about trusting myself. I worried that if this happened, what else might I forget? I thought about all of the notes on my desk, all of the emails that need a response, all of the commitments I’ve made, all of the events on my calendar.
And I just felt it all – all of my imperfections, my fears, my shame. I shared with my husband, I said all of it out loud.
I walk on a tightrope most days – trying to balance it all, hold everyone up, keep it together.
I consider myself an excellent tightrope walker, most of us moms are up there everyday, but today I fell, and it hurt.
So after the crying and the sharing, I drank some water. I walked around, I picked up some things off the floor, I started to ease back into the flow of the day.
Then my daughter woke up and wanted to sit on my lap. She said she felt better. She wanted to hug for a long time. Then she told me stories about her day and did a few dances while she talked.
I listened and realized I was better, too.
We were better because we felt it. We sat in the pain of the moment and felt it. It may be small in hindsight, but it felt big when it showed up, and we both felt it.
Then it was over. We are done with it because we dealt with it.
This isn’t easy, and I didn’t like it. I still have a headache right now. But I have worked through so much past pain, pain that I stifled or denied, and I learned that to feel better, I have to acknowledge it.
Maybe not all at once, but I need to know it’s there, I need to look at it.
Because if I don’t, it will show up in different ways. Insecurity, poor choices, lying, hiding, or physical pain.
So if you made a mistake today, or yesterday, or a long time ago, consider looking at it again.
Consider taking responsibility if necessary. Consider apologizing with sincerity. Consider not blaming anyone else. Just acknowledge, feel it, speak it, and then watch it go.
This is how we practice self respect, and this is how we teach self respect.
This is how we ask for forgiveness, and this is how we forgive ourselves.
This is how we make a mistake, and this is how we move on.