Love, Always

How to believe in yourself again when you’ve really messed up

We’ve all made mistakes.

From flaking out on a friend … to cheating on a spouse … to screaming at a child … to disrespecting your body by eating an entire bag of chips when you swore you wouldn’t … messing up happens.

Last week I shared a piece on how to win back someone’s trust when you’ve really messed up.

But how can you get other people to trust you again, when you don’t even trust yourself?

It’s an important question. So today, we’re going to talk about how to re-build your self-trust again.

Here are some ways to begin:

1. Take responsibility.

It’s tempting to blame someone else for what happened —

My husband was ignoring me [so I cheated]; my kid was not cooperating [so I screamed]; my friend wouldn’t have fit in at the party I was attending [so I lied and said I wasn’t going]; my boss was a jerk [so I had to have a couple of extra drinks to calm down].

— but blaming others isn’t productive.

You’re not likely to change your behavior (or have a chance at repairing your self-trust) until you own up to what you’ve done.

2. Stop waging war … on yourself.

When you’ve done something wrong, it can feel like there’s a war raging inside of you. So much anger, directed inwards. So much shame. So much grief.

The cure … acceptance.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that what you did was OK, or that you can do it again.

Acceptance simply means that you recognize that what you did was wrong, but you’re not at war with yourself because of it, any longer.

You’re ready to stop treating yourself as if you’re a hated enemy — to give yourself a chance to heal and do better.

You’re ready to find peace and move on.

3. Thwack out your feelings.

Even after taking responsibility for what they’ve done — and coming to a place of acceptance — many people still bottle up a great deal of shame, anger and grief, inside.

That’s why the next step is to release those feelings, safely.

One of the most effective ways to release negative emotions is by thwacking a pillow with a towel that’s been knotted on one end, while vocalizing your feelings out loud.

It may sound “crazy,” but it’s an incredibly effective form of release. You can learn more about that particular technique over here. (I also share it in several of my Life Guides, with step-by-step instructions.)

4. Understand “why.”

Once you’ve released your pent-up emotions, and you’re feeling a bit calmer, it’s time to take a look at why you chose to behave the way you did.

Many people try to do this step first — but that’s not ideal. It’s very difficult to explore your inner world when you’re highly emotional. That’s why I typically invite people to move through the other steps, first.

When you’re ready, ask yourself:

“What was I needing at the time?”

(More love from my spouse? More cooperation from my kid? More honesty with my friend? More respect from my boss?)

Try completing the following statement:

When I [describe your unhealthy / trust-breaking action here], what I really needed was: _______________________.

Armed with this new information, you can …

5. Decide to respond differently, next time.

Ask yourself:

“What would have been a healthier way to handle things?”

(Give myself the love I was wanting from my spouse, instead of seeking it elsewhere; Learn some parenting skills, instead of losing my cool with my kid; Have the courage to be honest with my friend, instead of lying; Have a heart-to-heart talk with my boss about my responsibilities.)

Try completing the following statement:

If [stressful situation] happens again, I will: _________________________.

Now you have a healthy alternative in place — and you can choose to take it.

Even after moving through all of these steps, you might still be saying:

“But last time, I was so out of control. How can I be sure that I won’t do that, again?”

There’s a simple — and comforting — answer to that.

Don’t allow negative emotions to build up and fester inside.

Release those emotions safely. Bring yourself back into balance.

Do that, and you won’t have a reason to make knee-jerk, reactive choices.

You won’t need to force yourself to “be good” or “do what’s right.”

When you release negative emotions consistently, and don’t allow them to build up inside, positive behavior tends to happen naturally, without effort.

And that … is something you can trust.


PS. Is there a behavior that you need to change, so that you can believe in yourself, again?  Share a comment below. :)

PPS. It takes courage to admit, “I could treat myself better.”  If you want to create a happier, healthier, more loving relationship with yourself — and with others — my latest e-course is for you.  It’s called The Love Tune-Up.   And it begins… the moment you’re ready.  Start your Tune-Up, here.

  1. After reading this, I confess I need to stop blaming others. Tough pill to swallow, but I can’t begin to believe in me if I’m focusing on others. Thank you for shedding light on this.

    • Hi Brenda: You’re welcome. Thank you for courageously owning what you need to do.

    • You know, I think I need to look at tip #2, “Stop waging war — on myself.” That would be quite a relief.

      • Hi Cindy: “Looking” is an excellent first step. Taking action and implementing #2, is what can really bring relief. Good luck.

  2. Grateful for this post. I gotta stop losing it with my kids. I apologize to them afterwards but that doesn’t make it right. Starting now I’ll handle things healthier.

    • Hi Lisa: Sounds like you’re positioning yourself for success. You’ll thank yourself a bazillion times over!

  3. I look forward to your posts every week, but I have to say I first thought that thwacking idea was wacko. But I gave it a try. Really works, felt so much better afterwards. Excellent.

    • Hi Pete: I understand your initial response to the thwacking technique. So glad you tried it & that it worked for you. :)

  4. Another valuable Blog. The “Don’t allow negative emotions to build up and fester inside” resonates with me. Thanks!

    • Hi Gertrude: You selected a powerful segment of the blog. Nail that, and I bet you’re home free!

  5. I always worried about being able to trust other people but I’m learning that as long as I can trust me, I’m on safe ground. Awesome post!

    • Hi Joe: Makes total sense. As we trust our ability to take care of ourselves, which includes making good decisions for ourselves, then we’ll naturally gravitate towards others who are trustworthy. A total win-win. :)

  6. I never make MISSNAKES, IMBAREASSING acts or PHO PAWS.

    Well, I may have made a few oversights in 67 years. Gosh, there could have been some errors in all of those years.

    Okay, there was undoubtedly lotsa and lotsa of blunders….

    Fortunately, in the latter years, on those rare occasions, I analyzed the circumstances in question and determined where the situation went bad. Oh, did I tell you that my memory isn’t too good and that I am a bad SPILLER.

    • Hi Ron: Thanks for your hilarious comment! Sounds like you’re pretty self-forgiving these days. :)