Mental Health, well-being

From Making a Mistake to Making Peace with it.

A few days ago, I made the biggest mistake of my life. And when I say big, I mean dirty. In the hours that followed, not only did I have to live with the utter disgust I felt towards myself, I had to live with the excruciating guilt of having hurt someone I love.

There’s so much I don’t like about myself, but I like to think that my soul comes from a place of good and kindness. Consequently, never in a million years did I think I’d ever become that person who betrays a friend for a 30-second kiss with a stranger on a night out, knowing full well it is wrong. But, somehow, I crossed that line and I am mortified.

If I looked in a mirror, I wouldn’t even recognise the girl who crushed her friend’s heart because it was so unlike me to begin with. I don’t go out to bars and clubs to make out with random people. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not who I am. What I am though — or thought I was — is a woman of values, who cares to do right by people. Therefore, there are 5 rules I usually swear by when it comes to seduction and relationships in particular.

  1. I don’t make a move on people who are already involved
  2. I don’t cheat or participate in cheating
  3. I don’t go out with an ex
  4. I don’t play games with people
  5. I don’t let a love interest come between me & my friends

And yet, here I am. I broke a code of conduct that I never, ever thought I’d break. If anything, I used to brag about having principles and sticking to them through thick and thin. I guess I don’t have such strong morals after all.

It’s true that the heart has its reason, of which reason knows nothing. However, as someone who sees life in black and white, I have always assumed that this is where the line is drawn between right and wrong: we’re all entitled to our feelings, but choosing not to act on them is what distinguishes a respectable human being from a despicable individual. I used to think that mistakes were just another word for weakness, and that people hid behind them to try and feel better about themselves, instead of taking responsibility for a choice they made consciously.

Oh, how I’m laughing now.

Let’s keep it real, I am not a saint. Never have been. Never will be. So, why did I ever entertain the idea that I was too good to screw up? And it’s not like I haven’t made bad decisions in the past either but, when it comes down to relationships, it always took two people to make a mess of things. In this case, however, I most definitely dug my own grave.

In some way, I trusted myself to have limits. Limits I was so sure I would never stretch, meet or go beyond. Because if I’m capable of overstepping one limit, how many more could I disregard completely? That terrifies me more than anything.

The uncertainty of what I am capable of isn’t my only concern, though. When my friend asked for a reason to understand why I did what I did, she wasn’t satisfied with the answer. How could she? The way she saw it, I deliberately did it to hurt her. I put myself in her shoes and, from where she was standing, it sure didn’t look good. So, how do you explain to someone that you never had the intention to hurt them, yet did it anyway? How do you explain that it had nothing to do with them and everything to do with your own vulnerability? How do you explain that it was a selfish move, born from stupid insecurities? How do you explain something that makes no sense whatsoever, and doesn’t even excuse anything?

It’s the worst part of it, that I hurt her to the point where she thinks I did it on purpose, to the point where she believes I actually wanted to upset her. Which makes me wonder… am I the type of person who calculatedly inflicts pain on another human being, but isn’t aware of it? Could I be lying to myself? Am I pretending to be someone I’m not, just so I don’t feel terrible about it all?

I hope not. I truly hope this moment doesn’t define me.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot I’ve had to question, from the whys of my behaviour to the flaws of my beliefs. I was reminded once more that each story comes with different factors, occurrences, sides and feelings. I keep being hit by these epiphanies where I realise life really isn’t just black or white. It’s so much more colourful, intricate and messy.

So, where do I go from there? How do I deal with the shame? How do I find redemption?

The first thing I’ve learnt is that anyone can actually slip up. It only takes a second, and there’s no going back. I used to look down on anyone who ever cheated, played with fire or went too far in any way. I don’t anymore. Each situation is obviously different and it depends on the people involved, their history, whether it happened repeatedly before, whether remorse is demonstrated, etc. Nevertheless, I won’t be caught passing judgment ever again. It took a while for me to get there, but I have changed my mind on attenuating circumstances and I now believe in second chances.

Another thing I’ve learnt is that acknowledging your mistake and apologising without minimising the other person’s pain is tremendously important. Sorry doesn’t magically erase what happened and it doesn’t even make up for it. But it still shows care, regret and consideration towards the feelings you’ve hurt. I cannot go back to make a more sensible decision and I cannot cast an Obliviate spell on both our minds to forget the whole thing, but I can take responsibility and try to make amends. At no point did I even consider denying, dismissing or defending my actions. Sorry was all I had to say for myself, but it was a start. I grew up in a household where lots of mistakes were made and lots of blame was thrown around like dodgeball, but no apologies were ever whispered. It used to heavily affect my relationships — and so did lack of communication — but I have gained from past arguments and grown from them.

The last thing I’ve learnt is that being honest with yourself is key. You need to recognise why it happened so it doesn’t happen again. The truth is, there’s no good enough reason that’ll ever make the lapse in judgement right. I feel like it doesn’t really matter how I justify my mistake, because nothing can truly support my actions. However, figuring out what went wrong means that I can work on it. In my case, for instance, it was low self-esteem, lack of confidence, outside influence, need of attention, comparison to others as well as seeking validation and comfort that made me lose all sense of decency and integrity.

If it is possible, one positive thing did come out of this. I have finally, truly accepted that it is OK to be single and to not seek more. I must stop letting society make me feel weird about it. I am not ready to date and I don’t particularly enjoy exchanging saliva with random people, just for the sake of it. I understand that others might feel different, and it’s totally fine. But there’s this common belief that you have to put yourself out there and meet someone to be accomplished or complete. It’s so toxic that some of us end up doing stupid shit to feel less rubbish about being alone. I thought I needed someone to fancy me to be worthy. That night, for once, I wanted to be anything but the ‘designated ugly fat friend’. I craved to be the one who caught the attention of the charismatic, attractive stranger. For that, I ignored a friend’s feelings. So yeah, I might have looked beautiful. But I felt ugly on the inside, and that’s something I simply cannot bear.

Now, moving on from a mistake that made you feel ashamed and that hurt someone you love is the next step. In some way though, it is as difficult as dealing with the fallout. It’s a process that goes from acknowledging and apologising to forgiveness, which is a tricky business. Not only do we seek it from the person we’ve hurt, we also need to look into ourselves to find our own. More often than not, we don’t think we deserve it so it makes the following days/weeks/months that much more agonising. So, the sense of relief that poured over me when my friend accepted my apologies and forgave me was unlike anything I’d experienced before. I feel so grateful for it. Once again, I grew up in a household that never forgave, so I didn’t ask for it and certainly didn’t expect it.

That’s, alternatively, the final lesson I learnt. I don’t know if everything can be or should be forgiven. I’ve held grudges and been angry about stuff for so long, only now do I realise that there may be another way. Staying mad at people earn us nothing in the end, whilst letting go brings a sense of peace like no other. I’m aware that forgiveness doesn’t happen for everyone, so I feel like it shouldn’t be the sole source of closure, but it’s helpful nonetheless.

I still feel the weight of the blame and the weight of the shame, but I have amazing friends who see the best in me even at my worst. They have taught me that ‘to err is human, but to persist in error is diabolical’ (from the latin ‘errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum’). A heart has been hurt because of me, and I am disappointed with myself because of it. There’s no avoiding it, no forgetting. But beating myself up over it forever won’t fix anything. Lessons have been learnt and, at the end of the day, I have to believe it’s enough.

We all mess up in our own unique way, so I don’t expect anyone to relate to this particular mistake. However, I want to raise conversations that might spark compassion and understanding. If you’ve ever done something you’re not proud of, please know that you are not alone. Nobody is perfect but we can all aim to better ourselves, and that is the beauty of mankind. Let’s have faith, shall we?

4 thoughts on “From Making a Mistake to Making Peace with it.

  1. Bonjour Justine,

    Je trouve que tu es vraiment très douée pour décrire la profondeur humaine, sans jamais la placer “hors sol” de manière excessivement abstraite, mais en la resituant à l’endroit où elle prend tout son sens pour chacun d’entre nous, au fond du cœur, organique, qui bat et qui souffre. Un cœur en quête de chaleur, pour satisfaire un besoin d’appartenance et de reconnaissance dans notre monde bien réel où il se heurte si souvent. Et plus encore, j’admire ta capacité à tirer des leçons de tes expériences qui aident à grandir malgré la rudesse de certaines épreuves. Je me sens si reconnaissante que tu partages ce que tu traverses avec nous – lucky us – et ne me lasse jamais de te lire. Bien que cela fasse plusieurs années que je t’écoute avec plaisir (youtube, blog), je n’avais jamais commenté par crainte de dire des inepties, car la communication n’est pas mon fort. Cette fois, néanmoins, j’avais besoin de me manifester pour te dire merci.

    Tes écris m’ont aussi permis de sécher mes larmes plus d’une fois – quand le sujet que tu abordes me concerne également de près, ou bien de faire appel au plus profond de ma compassion lorsque tu partages “avec tes tripes” une expérience que je n’ai pas vécue. Et dans tous les cas, c’est beau. Tes mots vont à l’essentiel, sans détour inutile. Ils apaisent immédiatement les plaies béantes. Pas comme un divertissement qui nous détournerait, provisoirement, de ce qui nous blesse si profondément, mais plutôt comme une voix authentique qui nous accompagne afin d’affronter ce qui semble cassé, vulnérable, ou même laid, en nous-même, sans détourner le regard. Aussi mal que cette démarche d’honnêteté puisse faire, ça fait sacrément de bien. Et ne pas avoir à le faire seul.e, même si c’est essentiellement par identification ou empathie par le biais de tes articles ou de tes vidéos, c’est déjà vraiment précieux.

    Now, I would like to focus on what happened with your friend.
    Keep your chin up, you’re truly and beautifully human. I mean every word I just said. You probably have amazing friends, as you mentioned it in your article. And it’s worth pointing out that you are EQUALLY an amazing person. Even though I’ve never met you in the physical world, I am absolutely positive, without the shadow of a doubt, that you would never, ever, hurt anyone on purpose. Even less a friend of yours.
    I understand that the pain you are feeling – or have been feeling then, when it occurred – must have been intense to the point it blurred the lines. I agree with what you said about not being a saint. I am not one neither, although I usually swear by the same five principles of good conduct. Yet, I do believe that the more good-hearted you genuinely are, the more suffering you must be feeling to end up crossing the red line. I assume that your pain must have been so incredibly high so as to let down your guard on who you are. It also happened to me occasionally, and it does to the best of us. I imagine the most important thing lies in how we react after we have failed at keeping up to our own standards at some point. I think your reaction was very mature and inspiring, and that only time will soothe both you and your friend.

    All is well.

    Love,

    Sarah

    1. Sarah, je ne sais même pas comment répondre à ton commentaire, parce que tes mots sont si bienveillants et si gentils qu’ils m’ont fait verser des larmes.
      Je te remercie du fond du cœur d’avoir pris le temps d’écrire tout ça, parce que ça m’a vraiment, énormément touchée. Je te suis infiniment reconnaissante de lire les articles et, s’ils peuvent t’avoir apporter quelconque réconfort, alors pour moi c’est la plus belle chose qui soit.
      Prends bien soin de toi, et à très vite. :) x

  2. I know it can be kind of extremely hard when causing pain to someone, when hurting their feelings.
    Sometimes you may do it purposely, which I don’t think you did cause you still have a heart.
    And I know that apologizing won’t necessarily solve th problem entirely or ease the one you hurt but it’s worth give it a try so that both parties can move on.
    I hurt a girlfriend once when breaking up with her but I preferred that than cheating on her. I felt sorry for her. In this situation we see ourselves as monsters no matter why we did what we did.
    Loved your post and the fact that you wrote with your heart, it means that you do have one. Never doubt about it.
    Don’t know if my comment will be helpful but here it is.
    Lots of love :)

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