The Value of Messing Up: How to Learn From Mistakes

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We all make mistakes. Every person has done something that they regret. Everyone has hurt other people in some way. In recovery, you have to learn from your mistakes. After all, what else can you really do? There is value in messing up, you just have to look for it. You may be stuck in the blame-game, whether blaming others for your mistakes, blaming yourself, or blaming outside circumstances or events. Blame only takes away from our potential for growth. Blame does not allow us to see our mistakes as opportunities to do better. You may struggle and have a hard time letting go of mistakes. When things are important to you, you may need to give yourself time to learn from them. When you mess up a relationship or a great opportunity, you might need time to process the pain of loss before the lessons come clear.

Grieving Our Losses

You will have a difficult time moving past your mistakes and learning if you do not allow yourself a chance to grieve your losses. Your mistakes from the past, whether due to your addictions or not, might be lingering in your head. You may be obsessing about things you have done or said to others that you now regret. You may have lost relationships due to your mistakes or lost time due to negative consequences, like jail time or other legal issues related to your addictions. You are allowed to feel sad or upset about these losses. You may need to go through the grieving process to get past the negative emotions you are currently feeling. Even if your losses were due to your mistakes, you can learn to forgive yourself and free yourself from torment. Grieve your mistakes by:

  • Talking to a friend or support person about your emotions.
  • Write out or journal about your feelings.
  • Express your feelings through art or music.
  • Use deep breathing or other coping skills to calm your anxieties.
  • Give yourself time to feel sad when sadness comes up! 
  • Sometimes your feelings will stick around longer the more you try to fight them. 
  • Learn to sit with uncomfortable or negative feelings–they can serve us by teaching us what not to do! 
  • Just be careful not to dwell in these emotions, let them flow through you.
  • Let yourself feel sad or upset to move past the pain of regret.
  • You might feel angry at yourself. Work through these feelings by focusing on a positive activity, like exercise or a hobby.
  • Remember that you are only human and everyone makes mistakes! Be kind to yourself!

Learning From Mistakes 

After you have allowed time and worked on processing the consequences or losses of your mistakes, you can start to see the lessons more clearly. When you are still feeling emotional about your mistakes or have not dealt with these feelings, the actions driving your mistakes may be unclear. You have to separate yourself from the emotional impact to see things clearly. This may take you some time. You may find yourself not recognizing the life lessons you can learn from mistakes until weeks, months, or even years later. You may also not be in a healthy state of mind to properly evaluate your own actions. You may need others to help point out some problems for you. Once you can see the actions leading to your mistakes without masking them in self-blame or blame to others, you can learn to grow and heal. Getting distance from our pasts helps us get perspective on the things that have happened in our lives.

You need to do a critical evaluation of what has happened to learn from your mistakes. What was the direct cause and effect of your behavior? What things were in your control at the time? What things were out of your control? As time moves forward, you can find clarity and learn self-forgiveness. You can also get some perspective by talking to others about your mistakes. Likely, those in your support group or 12-step program have made similar mistakes or experienced similar consequences in their lives. Recovery is about moving forward. You move forward by learning and moving on. You would likely not have the gift of recovery without making some grand mistakes in your life. Without consequences for your behavior, you might still be engaged in your addictive behaviors. Be thankful for the lessons that your mistakes have taught you and move forward in your recovery journey!

Making mistakes is a part of life. We all mess up at some point. We all have regrets and wish we could go back to fix things from our past. We cannot fix the past, however, we can learn from our mistakes to create a better future for ourselves. Some of our mistakes may have led to great losses and we have a difficult time seeing the lesson to be learned. Give yourself time to process grief over losses in life. If you are not processing your emotions, you will live in regret and not learn from your mistakes. Let your regrets teach you what not to do. Once you have some perspective on your life and how mistakes have impacted things, you can see how your actions have impacted your life. Then, you can analyze your mistakes and learn from them. Everlast Recovery Centers is here to help you. Call us at 866-DETOX-25.

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