Toi, from Buckhannon writes:
I’m not a fan of talking about my mistakes. I’m normally the person who denies making any, but I know that one in particular is about to come to the surface. It was unintentional, but it happened. I overdrew my bank account and used our vacation fund to fix it. I didn’t tell my family because I intended to put it back obviously. Instead I put it off every paycheck until now. My husband plans to start planning our vacation in a few weeks, which is what we always do. We pay and plan in March for a trip in June. I know my family is going to be very upset with me for not telling them sooner. Any tips?
Dear Toi from Buckhannon,
It is hard owning our mistakes. It’s scary facing the disapproval of others because we are afraid they will withdrawal their love from us. But, the truth is that most often we don’t face our mistakes because we aren’t very good at forgiving and accepting ourselves. We are harder on ourselves than anyone else ever could. (most of the time) Unfortunately, mistakes are how we grow – and if we don’t acknowledge them, we won’t learn the lesson they are here to teach us.
I’ll get back to that towards the end, right now you have a fire to put out – so let’s talk about that first.
So, you know that the truth is about to come out. There is no avoiding it. Even if you put the money back right this minute, this incident has left its mark on your subconscious. Hiding something from your spouse is just a really bad idea because guilt and shame eventually eat away at your self-esteem and it changes who you are.
What is the best way for this to come out? My counseling professor, Dr. Kelley, has a saying: Deal with the problem now and suffer a little, or deal with it later and suffer a lot. Your husband finding out when trying to book a vacation and the transaction is denied is not the best way for him to learn of this. You need to address it and the sooner the better.
Here is how you can prepare for the discussion:
- Have a financial plan to put the money back in the account. (even if it means the vacation is delayed) Be specific. What is your plan to repay the money?
- Get your attitude in check. Be humble and sincere. Acknowledge your mistake and your desire to fix it. Explain that you understand the disappointment he must feel and that you are willing to make amends. Why you did it is only important in knowing what changes you need to make. It’s more important to be able to express what you’ve learned and that you will take action to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
- Put your listening ears on. Allow your family to express their feelings without you being defensive. Now, name calling or violence or other degrading behavior is not acceptable on their part and you should not tolerate any of that – but listening to their feelings will be very important in them being able to trust that you understand how your action impacts them.
And when you’ve done all the above and taken responsibility for your mistake,
Learn the lesson, make amends and forgive yourself.
You are human and humans grow through experience – much of which is making mistakes. Yes, this is a pretty serious mistake because it impacts your family and their trust and faith in you. Learn the lesson this mistake presents to you. Do you need financial counseling? Do you need to create an organized record keeping system? Do you need to take your name off the vacation fund savings account to keep you from having access? These are questions you need to ask yourself so that you are able to change the behavior that led to the mistake.
And, then, forgive yourself and put this in the past knowing that you have ensured you won’t repeat this behavior because you learned the lesson. Forgive yourself so that this experience doesn’t hurt you moving forward. Guilt and shame are insidious cancers to our self-esteem and personal vibration. Grow through this and move on.
Try to acknowledge your mistakes going forward as well – even if they only affect you. Take responsibility for your mistake. Learn the lesson there. Make a correction. Forgive yourself. Grow. 🙂
Best of luck with this,
PS – Take a look at the next letter for more on self-forgiveness.
Looking for Peace in WV writes:
So without going into long detail, my issue is this: I seem to have a hard time forgiving myself for past mistakes. I have overcome these mistakes and have came out on top, however I tend to beat myself up over past bad decisions. How do I find peace with these mistakes and move forward without the regret looming over me constantly?
Dear Looking for Peace,
I put your letter second this week on purpose in the hopes you could take something from the first letter and response.
The biggest reason we cannot forgive ourselves is because we do not accept that we are perfectly imperfect human beings. We can forgive others for terrible things. “They aren’t perfect” we tell ourselves. We have such a hard time saying that to ourselves though. And it all comes from the fear of being judged and not being loved by others.
Honestly, what would happen if you forgave yourself and stopped living in guilt and shame? Will others think that you aren’t sorry for your mistakes? Will the outside world think you didn’t learn your lesson if you release yourself from this self-sentenced prison? Will people stop loving you if you can hold your head up and live without the weight of the past on your shoulders?
You notice that all those questions are about what others might think of you and your choice to love yourself. Would anyone in your life care if you chose to love yourself as unconditionally as you love them? I doubt it – and if they do, it might be time to find some new people to be in your life.
As I said in the letter above, guilt and shame are a cancer to our soul. If you had cancer in your physical body you would do whatever necessary to remove it – right? But, how do you do it when it is your soul?
First, you have to decide that you are deserving of your own forgiveness. Then, you have to shift your thinking. At this point the guilt and shame are a really bad habit you’ve acquired and in order to quit you’ve got to find a better one. Those negative thoughts have to be changed to positive ones and it will take a while to change this habit.
Here is a mantra exercise for you to say when these feelings of guilt and shame come up:
I accept myself as being perfectly imperfect. I learn the lessons of my mistakes and grow as a human. The purpose of being human is to learn and grow. I forgive myself. I release myself from the guilt and shame of not knowing what I didn’t know when I didn’t know it. Others will love me when I love myself. I do love myself. I do forgive myself. The past is a lesson. I am free to live in happiness and joy. I am free to move forward in life. I am happiness and joy.
All the best,