Here’s Why Your Past Mistakes Don’t Own And Define

By Reniel

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Last Updated: June 15, 2021

Being upset with someone else for making a mistake is one thing, but being upset with ourselves is another. For a start, it is easy to sleep peacefully if the mistakes were done by another, but sleep becomes very hard to find when you are the cause. And this was the situation young Tony Sales found himself in.

At the young age of 13, Tony started on his journey of crimes. He would carry out subscription scams, and solicit funds for courses that were all made up (and then, he would pocket the money). Soon he raised the stacks with credit card frauds, identity thefts, mortgage frauds, and so on. Before 16, he had amassed over $300,000, and stashed them all up under his bed, because he was too young to be seen with such an amount of money.       

Soon he came of age and started buying all the things he could only dream about years ago (due to age restrictions) – such as cars, expensive trips, and enjoyed a luxurious life in general. In fact, he went on to get married and gave birth to a son. In general, it is estimated that he made about $12 million to $35 million during this time, earning him the title, “Britain’s Greatest Fraudster”. However, he was soon caught, and everything was taken away from him. And while in prison, he had to watch his wife and son cry because of him. This broke his heart and taught him the lesson of his life.

Indeed, Tony made a huge mistake, a mistake that landed him in prison…

…but unlike what you might expect, Tony – though later regretting his actions – didn’t throw away his past. He didn’t try to bury it. He didn’t see those days as wasted and worth sweeping under the rug, but rather embraced them. He embraced his past mistakes so much so that he eventually became the director of strategic development at a company that helps businesses fight financial crimes.      

Though it sounds like an odd twist, it is actually logical – it makes sense. This is because “to catch a thief, you need to think like a thief” – you need to know what they know, what motivates them, and how they act or react. This is the same with all aspects of life.     

Disclaimer: I’m not proposing that we all become criminals, or do terrible things, but that we realize the underlying reality; Which is that we can all learn from our mistakes. In fact, without mistakes, there can be no lessons. And unlike school, life teaches its lessons backward.        

“Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward”

– Vernon Sanders Law     

Your mistake could have been caused by your ignorance or momentary weakness, but whatever the situation, it is important to realize that how you see those mistakes determines how, and to what extent they would affect your life.         

 

You ARE NOT YOUR MISTAKES

The biggest problem with making mistakes (especially costly ones) is that we attach ourselves to the mistakes. True we made mistakes, but we are not those mistakes. Tony, for example, knew that he had committed those crimes, but he also realized that they were because of his ignorance and weakness, and so he separated himself from it.    

He didn’t see himself as a “criminal” but as a kid who committed “crimes”. It sounds the same but it is widely different. One associates the crime with who he is, whilst the other disassociates the crime from who he is.       

And because the crimes were distinct from who he was, he was able to free himself from its chains. Whatever thing you did is not who you are – “you are not your mistakes” – and so you must not allow it to own or define you.     

Your mistakes could have been life’s way of preparing you for something greater. And maybe you just need to overcome the guilt and shame to see the lesson and opportunities it is presenting to you.    

Think about it, we most times find room in our hearts to forgive people who make mistakes, and even hope they learn from the repercussions they may suffer, but why do we perpetually torment ourselves with our past? Would this be what someone who loves us would want for us? Is it something we would want for someone we care about? Surely, we would want to give them another chance. Surely, we would forgive them and not judge them anymore. This is why we must learn to let the past go.       

Below are some practical steps you can take to forgive yourself for your past mistakes and break their hold over you.

 

HOW TO LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES

  • Acknowledge the mistake(s): The first step in redefining our lives is telling ourselves the truth. You must acknowledge that what you have done is wrong and that the repercussions are as expected. Denying, or ignoring this fact is a sure-fire way to get stuck in the past.
  • Accept the consequences: You would have to come to terms with the fact that what has been done, has been done. You cannot change the past and depending on the degree and type of mistakes you made, you might have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life. But this too is okay, and must be done – you must accept the repercussions of your actions.  
  • Amend your damage(s): If your mistakes can be corrected, then it is your obligation to fix them. This could be as simple as accepting responsibility, going the extra mile to repair what was broken, or simply apologizing for your mistakes. It is a crucial part of this process of letting go.  
  • Appreciate your mistakes: Though unsavory, you must also learn not to beat up yourself for your mistakes, but to be grateful that you have made them. You must appreciate the fact that they have taught you the importance of not repeating them in the future – you have been blessed with “experience” by making those mistake(s).     
  • Appreciate the mistakes you didn’t make: Why not push things a step further and be grateful for all the other terrible mistakes you didn’t make? Maybe your mistake would have been worse – like, leading to the loss of life, or the destruction of the human race entirely. But here you are standing, with people willing to forgive and move on.    
  • Accept forgiveness: The next step is to forgive yourself. You have to let go of the shame, guilt, and regrets because they were born from ignorance, weakness, or some other factor outside of your control. It is unfair to keep judging your past based on your current knowledge, understanding, and strengths. In reality, most people would do worse than you, so take comfort in this, and accept forgiveness for yourself.   
  • Adhere to your new value(s): Regret and shame arises when what we did (in the past) is misaligned with what we feel is right (at the present). This means the only reason we feel regret is because of what we value. In other words, to ensure we don’t repeat such mistakes, we must make sure to outline and adhere to those values strictly. This is because, if we can truly change our ways, then we can truly forgive ourselves knowing that we are no longer the same person that made those mistakes in the past. This is the greatest secret to letting go. And finally..
  • Aim at the future: The final step in freeing ourselves from the past is using those lessons to build a better future. You must transmute the lessons and experience to make a better life for yourself. For Tony, this would be the point when he finally decides to fight crime.     

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

– Albert Einstein

It’s cliché but it’s true, throughout life you would make mistakes, and there is nothing you can do about this. Most of those mistakes would be small, but a few would be noticeable or even depressing, but they are all the same – they are all opportunities to learn and become better. Therefore, take comfort, because your past mistakes don’t own and define you.    

 

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