You Have Permission to Make Mistakes

A theme that comes up often in my counseling practice for many people is guilt. They feel guilty for things that they, “should be doing” and aren’t. They feel guilty for things they, “shouldn’t be doing” and are. When we sit together and explore what these “shoulds” are, where they came from and what they mean, it turns out that more often than not, it’s about people not wanting to make mistakes. Because making a mistake or being wrong would cause others to think less of them. 

I get it. I like to be right. I remember last year when we were remodeling the kitchen and I walked right into Sherwin Williams, immediately picked the color for the kitchen walls, and told my husband this was the color. He of course did not think it was the color because, “how could I have possibly picked it that fast?” We spent the next few weeks looking at paint swatches, spending way too much money on samples, asking our friends their opinions, only for my husband to decide that indeed, he liked the first color I picked. Granted it was a bold choice, but I knew it would work. I like being right. 

And as many times as I have been right, I know there are way more times when I get it wrong and make mistakes. When I say the wrong thing at the wrong time (I don’t always have the best filter, but it has gotten much better over the years), and when my mistakes impact others in a negative way. I especially hate it when that happens. 

I remember when I was well into adulthood, I used to replay conversations over and over again that I had with other people. I would spend way too much time rehashing everything about the conversation, and then chastise myself for saying the wrong thing or berating myself for the things I said. It was exhausting. After learning I was highly sensitive, and then specializing in the trait in my practice, I realized that this was because I didn’t want to make mistakes. Normally the root of this is perfectionism, many people feel very guilty when they mess up and that can be debilitating and leave them stuck. 

This week, I think it’s important to remember that you have permission to make mistakes. If you struggle with giving yourself permission to make mistakes, or “should” yourself a lot, here are a few tips that might help: 

Rupture vs. Repair

I’ve been studying attachment theory and how it impacts our relationships, and it has been so helpful as I have been able to use this information to teach clients why they interact the way they do with others. Especially parents because they tend to be very hard on themselves when they are not patient enough with their children. While that may be the case, it’s also true that parenting is a tough job! But in any relationship, there are going to be fights, arguments, yelling and even impulsive reactions/words to situations. We’re human, and we can’t always be our best selves all the time. Yelling, fights and being impulsive all contribute to ruptures in our relationships. However, the more important part of any relationship is how you repair that situation. Genuinely listening to hear the other person’s point of view, admitting when you were wrong, offering sincere apologies-these are all ways to let the other person know that they are important to you, and you will try to do better next time. It’s more important to focus on the repair than the rupture but many of us get stuck on the rupture. 

Talk to yourself as if you’re talking to a friend

When these ruptures happen in relationships, or you make mistakes, especially when it’s people you don’t live with, and you find yourself rehashing a previous conversation, stop, and talk to yourself as if you’re talking to a friend. What would you say to a friend if they were telling you about this situation? How would you help them be able to learn from that and move through it? What advice would you give them? This technique can be helpful when we’re having a difficult time getting out of our own heads!

Talk to yourself using your first name

I tried this recently because a client shared it with me during session. And I’m surprised to say that it really worked. When I was younger and was so hard on myself when I made mistakes, I usually ended up saying very negative things to myself. Many people do the same thing. They think they deserve to hear such unkind things about themselves. When we use our own name when talking to ourselves, it sounds more like a friend is talking to us and giving us advice. And normally our friends are much kinder and gentler to us than we are to ourselves. 

Give yourself grace

You’re not going to get it right all the time so give yourself permission to make mistakes and then try to do better next time. You might even say to yourself, “I have permission to make mistakes because I’m not perfect.” Oh, and don’t forget to use your first name when you say this! 

I hope this helps you be kinder to yourself this week and give yourself permission to make mistakes. And when you do make them, (and you will), focus more on how you can repair it than the mistake itself.

I love working with highly sensitive people. If you think you might need counseling or coaching, and especially If you’re highly sensitive, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling or life coaching. If you are looking for help with burn out, depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling

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