‘I wish I had’ is a phrase that I’ve heard many times. Yes, from myself too. Don’t we all wish we had known better at specific points in our lives? If we did, things would have turned out differently, andâ€¦ well, you get the idea.
Once you’ve moved through any trying event, struggle, or new situation, you’ve done it, and gained knowledge and experience from it.Â Afterward, it’s easy to engage our hindsight, and critique our past performance to identify how we might have done something differently. Â In the moment, however, things are not always easy. Looking back at times when I feel like I should have known better, I recognize that what I didn’t always have was the wisdom to understand better. Being human comes with many wonderful moments; it’s also laced with mistakes. The time for forgiving yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know is now.
Without that realization, we carry guilt or shame with as a ball and chain of anxiety that can affect all of our relationships, including the relationship with ourselves. Facing those heavy feelings and dialoguing with ourselves acknowledges the fact that something happened and gives us that space to forgive ourselves. After all, if we can’t forgive our own fumbles, we will likely find it even more challenging to forgive others when they make mistakes.
Intellectually, we all understand that no one is fault-free. Yet, we still convince ourselves that we are different, so we try to be perfect or become frightened of doing or saying anything that might be “wrong.”
As caregivers, we carry an extra measure of that guilt. We are responsible for the well-being of another human, and when things go awry, the burden of a perceived mistake can weigh heavily upon us, even years after the fact.
So how do we move past the “I wish I hads?”
To begin with, practice a different way of thinking. Focus on what you’ve done right vs. what’s been done wrong. Learn from your mistakes, but sometimes things are out of your control. Don’t put the burden of being right and going through your days without errors.
A good process for this is:
- Accept your mistakes.
- Be gentle with yourself.
- If apologies are necessary, make them as soon as possible so you can clear the air.
- Ask yourself if there were other options available – could you choose a different way to respond next time?
- Let it go. (That last one is paramount!)
You are quite an amazing human being for all you do in your caregiving days. Forgiving yourself in all of this is vital to sustaining a balanced life. Â Only with forgiveness can we keep putting one foot in front of the other with steady steps and a healthy pace.