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. 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 might be a helpful step in that direction.  It’s called The Love Tune-Up.   And it begins… the moment you’re ready.  Start your Tune-Up, here.