Whether it’s reckoning with a specific way you hurt a friend in the past, or coming to terms with how your privilege has served you in general in the context of social justice movements like Black Lives Matter or the fight for trans rights, admitting to your mistakes is always difficult. It’s normal to feel guilt and shame when realizing you may not have always honored your values in the way you meant to, but it’s crucial that you don’t let those feelings beat you up or hold you back from the pursuit of self-growth. Here’s how to reject that fatigue and take care of yourself so that you can become a better person every day.
You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup
Personal growth and learning are a lifelong journey. If you truly mean to live by your values in order to do right by yourself and by others, you have to be willing to do it every single day of your life — a prospect that can seem daunting at first. That’s why you have to be committed to self-care, not as a way to indulge yourself, but as a way to feel at your best so that you can truly “show up” in your everyday life.
This process looks different for everyone: maybe for you it will be a vigorous workout, or maybe it will be taking time out to do a sheet mask. Whatever it is, make time for the things that bring you joy and peace, and cultivate compassion for yourself so that you can extend it to others.
Class Is in Session
Learning doesn’t end after you graduate, and every single one of us can benefit from continued learning — whatever our ultimate goal. You can never possibly know or understand everything about the world, but you especially can’t empathize with others if you don’t know the basic facts of what they’re going through. Educate yourself through books, movies, podcasts, or even through short online courses and masterclasses on a variety of subjects that affect your community and the world. This will broaden your horizons and help you become a better person.
When trying to unlearn lessons you previously held for true, listen to your friends and community members who are most directly affected, or defer to experts and educators in that field. Simply listening isn’t enough, though; you have to commit to actively listening. That means being present in mind and body without judging or getting defensive. This will enable you to form more meaningful connections and in turn feel more personally invested in what you are hearing.
Own Your Mistakes & Utilize Your Guilt
If someone points out that you made a mistake, or if you realize it yourself thanks to the steps you’ve been taking towards self-growth, fight your instinct to get defensive and work to own the responsibility for the mistake you made instead. This will enable you to apologize fully and unreservedly and invite forgiveness from yourself and from others. Feelings of guilt and shame can work as a catalyst to ignite change in your life — make sure not to sit for too long feeling guilty, but rather utilize it to improve your behavior in the future. Accept that you made a mistake (error is human!), pay attention to what you can learn from it, and move on. Guilt isn’t useful in and of itself — it’s what you do with it that matters.
In It for the Long Haul
Just like with any other goal in life, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to living according to your values. Lasting change doesn’t happen overnight, so be prepared for it to be a long process, and to have failures as well as successes along the way. Pinpoint exactly what your goals are and start with small, actionable steps. Recruit a loved one to keep you accountable and don’t give up when you hit a setback. Instead, rest, reset and start again.
Pursuing personal growth and learning can be painful and confusing, but when you have a few strategies under your belt to deal with uncomfortable feelings that arise along the way, it is always worth it.
Iris is a London-based writer and editor with six years of experience creating content for various outlets. Her work has appeared in InStyle, Stylist, SheKnows, Cosmopolitan, POPSUGAR, Her Campus and more.