Turning Mistakes into Self-Love

by Karen Mann

Have you ever had something happen that triggered a cascade of unwanted behaviors? Who am I kidding? You’re human, right? 

I had one of these moment the other day. I was in a phase where I felt pretty invincible, and then I received an email that knocked the wind out of me. It was a vaguely punitive, shaming email with no specific accusation or guidance around what needed to change, so I was left wondering.  

Immediately, my mind started filling in all the unknowns. Had I done something wrong? Could I have done better? Am I a bad person? And as all these thoughts flooded through me, I started to feel pretty lousy. 

I didn’t want to feel any of these things. So I did something to escape them and ate some things I usually wouldn’t have, hoping to make them disappear.  

Even though I have made great strides in acknowledging and responding to triggers, some events still derail me. So now that I’ve faced the trigger, thought the thoughts, felt the feelings, and dealt with them as I did, what do I do? 

#1 Play the part of your own best friend. Release the self-blame, shame, guilt, judgment, and self-rejection. We make these moments worse by adding layers of interpretation that make us feel small and helpless. We don’t need to go there. Let them go.  

#2 Brainstorm a list of different behaviors. What else could you have done in that moment? Write it down. For example, I could sit with the feeling and journal about it. I could walk to get some endorphins pumping through my veins and be in nature. I could call a friend and share my feelings so I wouldn’t have to feel them alone. Next time the trigger comes, read what you wrote. Then decide. You can still choose to eat. Or you can choose something from your list. You are empowered.

#3 Once the unwanted feelings subside, write a letter to yourself from where you are now to the person you were when you got triggered, with the advice you could’ve used at the time. For instance, in my case, I would write: 

Dear Karen, I know you felt powerless, sad, and helpless when you read that email. But I can tell you, these moments pass through like waves, whether you reach for something to soothe it or not, on the other side, you are ok. You are safe just to feel these things, and then let them go.  They cannot hurt you. I love you no matter what.

Remember, we all have those moments where we act impulsively and look back regretfully. This is our very beautiful humanness. And even more human is the second chance we get to give ourselves lovingly. 

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