Making Mistakes

On Saturday, I was out to run a quick errand. The white Honda in front of me had slowly crept down the street at 40km/h. Now it was turning right, and so was I. The lane was clear to turn. The Honda started turning and then abruptly stopped. I hit his rear bumper. A gentle bump but still my front license plate scratched his bumper, making repairs necessary. It was my fault for hitting him.

On Tuesday, I got out of my late morning session with a client and found a text and a voice mail from one of my favourite clients who always has a long drive getting to Mississauga. Her text said, “I am here for my appointment, rang doorbell, no answer”. I pulled up the last email I sent to her. It clearly said, “Next appointment, Tuesday, July 4 at 10:00 a.m.”. Yet, I had entered her appointment into my calendar for Wednesday. I screwed up.

I had a week of quite a few things escaping my attention, a week of “screwing up” if you so like. A few important emails also slipped my mind and an important anniversary. A mistake, screw up or failure like the ones I experienced this week is exactly what brings a particular part inside of us to the forefront: our Inner Critic loves to use any mistake or situation of fault as an opportunity to blame and criticize us harshly.

I have been asked in the past, what is the most common limiting belief? As much as we are all individuals and have very individual beliefs which hold us back in life, I would say that the most common beliefs are the ones which make us feel not good enough. At the top of the list is the belief that it is not okay to make mistakes. We learn this early on and our school system often manifests this belief. Our Inner Critic loves to “pounce” on us and really beat us up for past decisions we regret or more recent mistakes that we feel we have made.

mistakes - movie clapper.jpg

What if we could instead see a mistake just as a “missed take”, like in the movies? In most cases, we get another chance for a “Take Two” or even a “Take Three” in life. And in those case where we don’t get another opportunity we really need to let ourselves off the hook, heal the past and forgive ourselves in the process. Any choice we have made in the past was made with the knowledge and wisdom we had at the time. From a place of greater knowledge, we might have made a different decision, yet, we need to be compassionate with that younger self that did not know what we know today.

We are part of the human race, and as humans we don’t always make the strongest choices. We all mess up, miss opportunities or make decisions we regret in retrospect. In fact, we can even take it a step further. It is not “making mistakes” that is often the problem but “not making mistakes”. “If you do not make enough mistakes, that’s evidence that you are not taking enough risks, that you are not growing, that you stay in the comfort of your own safety zone” (Rachel Naomi Remen). Making a mistake can be one of the best things which happen to us because it gives us a feedback. The discomfort we feel when we have made a mistake means that we are more likely to remember what we have learned—unless we allow fear to drive our future choices.

Fear combined with the expectation that the same mistake, rejection or loss will occur again increase the likelihood that we are co-creating that same situation of failure or loss once again. We need to acknowledge the fear and face it. How can we learn from the past without allowing fear to take over our present and future?

What keeps us stuck in a feeling of “unworthiness”, of “being a failure”, is not the mistake but the lack of self-forgiveness and self-compassion. The feeling of “not being good enough” has its foundation in shame. It prevents us from going out and trying again, whether that is going to take another professional risk or healing our losses or relationships. Shame vibrates at a very low level. According to David Hawkins’ scale of consciousness, it’s one of the lowest possible vibrations.

Hawkins Map-of-consciousness

The only way out of that swamp of shame and fear is through self-love and self-acceptance. “There is this place that we all have deep inside us that is untouched by trauma and shame.” (Mark Nepo) There is a deep wisdom inside of us. Our essential self knows that we are perfect and whole, that we are love and light. In meditation or hypnosis, we can experience that place of deep and profound love-ability.

Once we have experienced this, it is easier for us to change our narrative about ourselves. We can change our story from “I am flawed. I am not good enough” to a different inner narrative of “I am human. I make mistakes. And I learned from my past mistakes”. As we change our story, we do not just change our perspective, but we literally change our brain. When we change our story, we change our life.

Often we feel stuck, when we are at a point in our life when our story needs to change. We always have the choice between a victim story or an empowering story. We have the choice to bring up a loving supportive parent voice as opposed to the judgmental voice of our Inner Critic. You are after all not your Inner Critic; that voice is just a part inside of you. Separate from it. We all have the capacity to personify and create a visual image of this part in us. You can even give it a name. Pick a name that is a bit ridiculous to make the separation even clearer and easier.

We want to be able to identify the voice of the Inner Critic. We could communicate with it. Like all parts, it has a purpose. The Inner Critic sees its job in keeping us safe from outside criticism and rejection. You can thank your Inner Critic for how it’s been attempting to help you. You can even find out what that part fears for you. Let it know you appreciate it is trying to protect you from embarrassment.

inner child - little girl

The second step is to bring up a loving parental voice and to connect with our vulnerable inner child that needs to hear and feel support and compassion. If you find it challenging to tell an empowering and self-compassionate story in a given situation, imagine the story someone who loves you tells about you, different from the story you tell yourself. Or imagine what you would say to a friend or a child in a similar situation. The Inner Critic talks to us in a way we would never dream of talking to somebody else, especially not a child. When we speak to others, we know exactly what words are encouraging, uplifting and motivating to do better next time.

Here is an exercise you can do to practice separating from your Inner Critic. Think about a choice you regret, or a moment in which you felt a sense of failure or shame. Imagine sharing this moment with a wise and loving friend. What would that friend say to you? They would most likely first of all show compassion and say something along the lines of “that sounds so difficult” or “I am sorry you had to experience this”. The second thing they might do is empathize and respond with something like, “I know how you feel. We have all experienced something similar.” The third thing they might do is remind you how lovable and amazing you are. They might encourage you not to give up but to try again. You can even write a letter to yourself pretending to be this compassionate, wise and unconditionally loving friend.

Compassion is not so much a trait but an action. I recently came across another interesting suggestion to increase our awareness of being compassionate. Get a pretty glass jar. For each time that you are compassionate with yourself (or others) you place a beautiful stone or colourful marble in the jar. The accumulation of crystals, stones or marbles becomes visual evidence for how compassionate you can be with yourself. When you do something self-critical, you can look at the jar and remember that those compassionate acts are not taken away and that the glass is just waiting for the next colourful token.

Glass Jar 2.JPG

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Angelika, Belief Change Coach & Relationship Coach


How to Examine Our Stories for the Truth

“One of the most prominent characteristics of our left brain is its ability to weave stories. … It functions by taking whatever details it has to work with, and then weaves them together in the form of a story. Most impressively, our left brain is brilliant in its ability to make stuff up, and fill in the blanks when there are gaps in its factual data.” (Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight, 143)

Our logical analytical left brain takes facts A, B and C and connects them into a story by filling in the blanks in a way that seems logical based on what we believe. The more emotional charge there is around a subject because of our belief systems and past experiences, the more convincing the story appears.

For example, someone who has rejection issues will have a tendency to interpret other people’s actions as rejection. That is in perfect line with their learned belief system of “The people I love always reject and abandon me”. A belief like that can originate from childhood when the little girl was left by her father. Each time a situation even looks remotely like a rejection, the little girl part inside pops up in fear, and the left brain weaves exactly that old story of rejection.


“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

From a metaphysical standpoint, it indeed is not. If we don’t examine our stories for the truth and learn to choose consciously which stories to run and which to let go of, there is not much personal or spiritual growth for us in this life.


But how do we examine our life – or in other words our stories – for the truth?

Byron Katie gives us four simple questions to ask ourselves:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do I react when I believe the thought?
  4. Who would I be without the thought?

She also suggests trying turnarounds to see if a turnaround is as true as the original story.

The woman in our example notices that her boyfriend is flirting with someone. She deducts that he is rejecting her with this action and projects into the future that he is going to leave and abandon her like her dad.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can she absolutely know this is true?
    Neither is it necessarily true that he is even flirting at all, nor is it true that his behaviour is a rejection of her. Maybe he is just being friendly, or enjoying the attention of somebody else. And it certainly is not true to assume he is rejecting her, or even remotely thinking about leaving her.
  3. How does she react?
    She feels like rejecting him in turn. Maybe it occurs to her to punish him by withholding sex or being unloving in another way. She might provoke a fight. As she projects her fear of abandonment into the future, she might even be thinking about breaking up with him before he can leave her like her dad did.
  4. Who would she be without the poisonous thought?
    She would be relaxed, could join in the light banter, or have a good time herself. She would signal to her partner through this that she is confident and trusts him. Feeling that trust he would be reminded how lucky he is to have such an amazing girlfriend. In that moment in time, nothing would be further from his mind than leaving this beautiful and self-assured girlfriend.

If the woman in our example continues to examine her story, she would have to try a turnaround as well, by asking herself if she has ever done the same. If someone triggers us with their behaviour, it is because the person is mirroring something for us.

Is it as true to say…

… I flirt and exclude, or reject my partner?

Being really honest with herself, she would probably find an occasion where she has acted in a way that could be interpreted as a rejection. Has she for example really committed 100% to her partner? When he suggested moving in together, did she not reject that for now?

… I reject or abandon myself in any way? Or I am not always true to myself and my needs?

If she is absolutely honest with herself, she might remember an incident when she let herself down, abandoning herself or her inner child in some way.


Examining her stories for the truth, allows her to take facts A (he is making eye contact with a beautiful woman), B (he is talking and laughing with her), C (the woman is single and looking for a partner) and weave a completely different story out of exactly the same facts.

She might now look at him and think. “I am so fortunate to have such a handsome boyfriend who other women are attracted to as well. I am proud of how relaxed he is in this social situation. I trust in our love and connection. I should let him know how much I love him later, maybe even suggest to move in together soon.”


What are your stories that your left brain is running?

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