Tuesday, June 27, 2006

We Are Not Our Mistakes

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This was yesterday's Daily Om, and a good one to ponder:

You Are Who You Are, Not What You Do
Becoming Your Wrong Decisions

Our perception of the traits and characteristics that make us who we are is often tightly intertwined with how we live our life. We define ourselves in terms of the roles we adopt, our actions and inactions, our triumphs, and what we think are failures. As a result it is easy to identify so strongly with a decision that has resulted in unexpected negative consequences that we actually become that "wrong" decision. The disappointment and shame we feel when we make what we perceive as a mistake grows until it becomes a dominant part of our identities. We rationalize our "poor" decisions by labeling ourselves incompetent decision-makers. However, your true identity cannot be defined by your choices. Your essence-what makes you a unique entity-exists independently of your decision-making process.

There are no true right or wrong decisions. All decisions contribute to your development and are an integral part of your evolving existence yet they are still separate from the self. A decision that does not result in its intended outcome is in no way an illustration of character. Still, it can have dire effects on our ability to trust ourselves and our self-esteem. You can avoid becoming your decisions by affirming that a "bad decision" was just an experience, and next time you can choose differently. Try to avoid lingering in the past and mulling over the circumstances that led to your perceived error in judgment. Instead, adapt to the new circumstances you must face by considering how you can use your intelligence, inner strength, and intuition to aid you in moving forward more mindfully. Try not to entirely avoid thinking about the choices you have made, but reflect on the consequences of your decision from a rational rather than an emotional standpoint. Strive to under! stand why you made the choice you did, forgive yourself, and then move forward.

A perceived mistake becomes a valuable learning experience and is, in essence, a gift to learn and grow from. You are not a bad person and you are not your decisions; you are simply human.
For many years, I looked back at my teen years and regretted the mistakes I made. I felt that I had wasted my life and my potential in a haze of drugs and alcohol. A wise therapist eventually suggested that I try to see that period of my life from the outside. How would I judge someone else who had gone through the same events? That changed everything.

Being able to bring some observer self to our life allows us to see the whole picture. When we regret mistakes, we are often caught within the feelings and our view is limited. When we can see how we have changed or grown as a result of the choices we have made -- good or bad -- we can begin to see those decisions as experiences we have gone through, lessons we have learned.

Obviously this will not always work -- some mistakes may require more focused healing in therapy. But for most of us, reframing mistakes as experience that has shaped the person we are becoming will allow us to rest peacefully with the lives we have lived.


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