Forgive Yourself For Your Mistakes

In this blog, I want to talk about an important principle of depression recovery–forgive yourself for your mistakes. We who suffer from depression can be overly hard on ourselves. With our self-esteem in the pits, we can be overly self-critical and self-judgmental. And when we make a mistake or misstep, our inner critic can go wild.

So I want to respond to this by saying that we must learn to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. There are at least three reasons for this.

First, as I said being mistakes is part of being human. That is why Alexander Pope famously said, “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

Second, we can learn from our mistakes. There is a saying that through our experience we gain wisdom. But what is experience? The accumulation of our mistakes we have made. So mistakes can help you to grow and become wise.

 I would like to illustrate the principle of self-forgiveness with a story from my own life.

Last week I decided to get new rain jacket for my partner, as she walks nearly every day in the Oregon rain. Even though I knew that the size Joan’s current jacket is a small, I went to the outdoor store and purchased a medium, figuring that the larger size was needed to accommodate layers of clothes underneath. However, when I got home and Joan tried the medium on, it was too large for her. Thus, I would have to go back to the store and do an exchange. Unfortunately, I had lost the receipt, something that was typical of my absent minded nature.

For the next 24 hours, I was very upset with myself for having chosen the wrong size and losing the receipt. I beat myself up saying, “How could you have lost the receipt you fool.” Finally after witnessing enough of my self-flagellation, Joan said, “Why don’t you forgive yourself. You can’t get it right all the time.”

After Joan’s comment, I thought to myself, no one gets it right. Or as Billy Joel says in his song, Second Wind, “You’re only human, you’re supposed to make mistakes.” So I decided to let go of my self-blame. Eventually, I was able to exchange the medium jacket for a small one.

The moral of the story is: forgive yourself for your mistakes. Since mistakes are part of being human, they can and will happen. When this occurs, it is important to replace self-criticism with self-compassion. As we do this, the symptoms of depression will lessen and your mood will improve.

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