Be gentle to yourself.

That’s the first and most important lesson I am learning from therapy, and some recent life experiences that have challenged me. You have to be gentle with yourself. And I write this to get my thoughts out and direct them at myself mostly, yes, but perhaps they will help you if you find yourself in this same place.

If you have made a mistake, and there is a lesson for you to learn from that mistake and its consequences, be gentle with yourself. I have a tendency to make moral and value judgments and be very critical of myself. Those judgments are very harsh, inflexible, and painful; of the type “you’re no good at this, you don’t have what it takes,” “you’re not meant to be doing things like that,” “you just fuck these things up,” “maybe [this very general type of thing] is just something you’re not suited for…” These judgments weigh me down with their negativity, and they cause the entire focus to be on the pain and shame of that judgment. If I do this, then whatever mistake I made that I need to be learning a lesson from, I won’t learn from – every time I revisit the situation in my mind my focus will be on the pain and the shame, not on what I could work to improve on, not on what I could practice do to better and more of in the future, not on how much I have grown that I’m even aware of the lesson and the change that can happen. Forget the shame. Focus on what you can do that can make a difference in the future, that can make for a different result. You can’t change what you have already done, but you can change how you will act in the future.

If you’ve made a mistake that could cause you to lose something you feel you’ve worked hard for, it is not the end of the world. If you fear you may lose something that matters a great deal to you, yes, it is painful, but it is not the end of the world. This is also being gentle with yourself. Yes, there may be pain. Yes, there may be loss. Yes, there may be hurt and anguish to go through. You will go through it, though, and whatever the result, you will come out the other side. It is not the end of the world.

Be gentle and patient with yourself and others. And with the healing process. If you burn yourself or someone else, don’t try to put out a forest fire. Overcompensating to fix things now overwhelms you and others, and risks you thinking “Oh, now I’ve done that and it’s resolved.” It likely isn’t; there is continuing work to do, and overloading that work at the front risks you letting that work be undone in the future. Putting a ton of work (and it must be work, not just words) in the front gives the illusion that you’ve practiced new behaviors. It’s just that, though – an illusion. You must continually work over the long term to effect change in yourself and your actions.

You’ll make it through. Do the work, and be kind to yourself in that work. There is no shame in making mistakes.