I just woke up and was lying in bed thinking of random things. What flits into my brain, but a small memory of a time when I embarrassed myself. I hate even writing about it because I’m afraid the person I said it to will read this, remember what I said and relive it in her own way. It was a relatively minor thing: a joke gone bad. But to this day, I feel stupid for having said it and still, embarrassed.
It was a friend’s wedding day and we were all getting ready and even though we all knew this couple was perfect for each other, I joked that she still had time to run. Nobody laughed. So awkward.
Stupid, right? Who says something like that?
I’ve got more examples of that. Times when I said something that has probably only remained in my memory, but remained nonetheless as a flub, a slip-up or a faux pas. When I remember what I’ve done, I feel bad all over again. I relive the moment supremely. Nonetheless, these embarrassing little moments will not go away. I feel like I’ll be fifty years old at an anniversary party for my friends and my brain will remind me of my past indiscretion. I’ll feel embarrassed all over again.
I’ve contemplated asking my friend’s forgiveness, but I’m afraid that she wouldn’t remember it and in asking for her forgiveness, I would then tell her of my stupid little deed and then she would know and remember what I’d done. She’s still my friend, so she must have let it go. I don’t feel like it comes between our friendship, or I’d address it right away.
On my side, I forgive my friends for major flubs and I don’t hold it against them. I certainly don’t remember the little things they’ve done to me or against me. They’re my friends because they love me, support me and are there when I need them. Everyone makes mistakes. I forgive theirs; I assume they forgive mine. So, why can’t “I” forgive mine?
If you’re like me, you may suffer with moments of shame. I want to wake up free and clear of this guilt that I’ve put on myself. So I did a little internet research on forgiveness and I found most sites were focused on helping others forgive themselves for major indiscretions (cheating on a partner, stealing, lying, etc.) and I think that is an important topic too. But, I don’t have that problem, which is interesting because I think I’ve had to forgive myself for major indiscretions and those never crop up as reminders. It happened, I found a way to forgive myself and I move on. When I relive major foul-ups, I don’t feel guilt anymore so I ask again, how can I forgive myself for these minor embarrassing moments I’ve caused myself?
First, I need to ask myself why I am holding myself to a higher standard on these issues. I don’t think I have to be perfect, but I think I still feel embarrassed because I acted in a way that I knew better, in a way that is out of character for me and I hope no one else remembers and attributes that one instance to my character as a whole.
I read this: “Self-forgiveness is very hard to do because it seems like acceptance of a sub-standard you.” I thought: this is the nail hitting it right on the head. These little memories waft up as reminders that I am a better person than I was in that moment and not to get caught doing something like that again.
So, if you’re reading this and thinking, I’m right there with you Susanna, then let’s do this: let’s agree to accept our past mistakes as moments which help us refine and not define our character. The memory crops up as a way to say, “Don’t do that again; it doesn’t suit you.” We may not be able to forget what we’ve done, and we certainly won’t be able to say that what we did was ok, but accepting our past mistakes doesn’t mean we forget or condone our action. It’s just a way of living with it. We can say to ourselves, “When I did this, it really embarrassed me. I’m not proud of it. But, it is not a reflection of the true me. The true me says I’m never doing that again. I’m moving on from that behavior.” This only works, naturally, if you do truly move on. If you continue to make the same mistakes you’ve always made, you’ve missed the important step of learning from what you’ve done in order to never repeat it.
David Niven, author of The Hundred Simple Secrets of Happy People wrote, “As a forgiveness technique, self-acceptance allows you to acknowledge that you’re a good person, faults and all. It doesn’t mean that you ignore the faults or stop trying to improve yourself but it does mean that you value yourself above those elements and cease to allow your faults to halt your progression in life.”
Sometimes we need reminding and sometimes it’s up to us to do it for ourselves in a private way. It’s a little “Stuart Smalley” (google if you miss the reference), but there isn’t anything truly wrong with looking yourself in the mirror and saying, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and people like me.” When you’re feeling a moment of shame and beating yourself up over a misspoken word last July or a stepped-on toe from six years ago, stop. Take a moment to remind yourself of all the good you do in the world, recognize that you aren’t perfect, but accept who you and everything that you’ve done in your life has led you to be the person you are today. We continue refining ourselves daily in order to live the best life we can. Living our best life in the moment is what brings us happiness, joy and fulfillment. Enjoy all the positive things in life and remember that what makes you who you are is wonderful.
As I nestle back under the covers, I purposely return to the moment that makes my cheeks go all red and my heart sinks into my stomach. This time I’m remembering that moment with acceptance. I’m thinking to myself that it was a growing period; that I came to better recognize when to joke and when not to. Unfortunately, it took my own embarrassment to make that leap, but I accept that it has made me who I am: a more sensitive person, willing to let a tender moment pass without feeling uncomfortable and needing to make a joke in the middle of it.
I’m sure if I called my friend now and asked her about this moment, she’d tell me I was nuts and she didn’t remember it at all. So, while I can’t seem to forget it, I can forgive myself for it.