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Dwelling on Your Mistakes? Stop it, Give Yourself Grace!

Dwelling on Your Mistakes Stop it, Give Yourself Grace

I own a few TV series on DVD, but one of my favorite extras included with these boxed sets is the blooper reel. I love to see the candid clips of actors messing up their lines, playing pranks on each other, and trying to ad lib when the unexpected happens.

There’s another kind of blooper reel that I don’t enjoy, though. It’s my own personal blooper reel, filled mostly with scenes from past conversations that did not go well. Conversations where I said the wrong thing, spoke in anger, gossiped, or just sounded like a big dummy. I might be in line at the grocery store or just about to fall asleep when the reel starts to play, and boy, is it discouraging.

I rewind and replay the worst scenes, and with each viewing, my anxiety increases. I imagine how things could have gone differently. I speculate about other people’s reactions and what they must think of me. I fret about the pain I’ve caused others and even more so, the potential loss of their good opinions.

I’m not talking here about having a healthy sense of regret, which can be a good thing. It means we’ve matured and see our past actions in a different light than we did at the time. What I’m talking about is a habit of dwelling on the past that creates a sense of anxiety, which in turn makes us hyper-aware of how we’re being perceived by others.

I rewind and replay the worst scenes, and with each viewing, my anxiety increases.

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I always thought this blooper reel of old conversations was probably good for me in the long run. That maybe it would teach me to be more careful with my speech. But what I’ve noticed lately is that it feeds relational and emotional insecurities. It negatively affects the way I interact with others. I carry around a sense that I’m always about to say the wrong thing, which dampers authentic conversation.

Maybe you’ve got a blooper reel, too, and you’re wondering if there’s any way to eject it from your mind for good.

Here are 3 tips that might help with this or any other mental habit you need to break:

1. You might just have to stop it.

One of my favorite Bob Newhart sketches is this one, where he plays a therapist who can cure his patients in under five minutes. In the sketch, a woman comes into his office who has a fear of being buried alive in a box. He gives her two words that she can take with her out of the appointment and incorporate into her life: Stop. It. That’s his solution for all her problems, actually.

While this phrase is not the cure-all prescription that Newhart’s character believes it to be, when I’m fighting a battle in my mind, I have found that it’s a pretty important step in the process. If you have observed a mental habit, noticed that it’s not beneficial, and want to change—eventually, you have to make a decision to stop it.

Once I realized that replaying the blooper reel in my head was making me feel insecure in my relationships, I decided that it had to stop. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Now, when I start to replay one of those memories, I catch myself and decide not to go there. Instead, I do the following…

2. When necessary, ask for forgiveness.

When a conversation I regret comes to mind, I ask myself, is there something here for which I need to apologize? Sometimes those memories nag at us because our conscience is sending a reminder that we have some relationship repairing to do. If I spoke in anger or insulted someone, I need to apologize to that person. If I simply told a joke that fell flat or said something dumb and embarrassed myself, then there’s no apology to be made. I just need to give myself permission to be uncool and move on!

3. It’s not enough to simply stop a habit, though.

We need to replace it with a better one. Ask yourself, what could I contemplate instead that would help my relationships and set my heart on firmer ground? For me, it helps to think about all the times people have been nicer to me than I deserved. I remember unexpected compliments and good advice and inside jokes and epic chats over vats of coffee. Rather than dwelling on all the times I’ve said the wrong thing, I can think about the times other people have spoken kindness and generosity and humor into my life. This reminds me that people love me, even though I’m imperfect, and that there’s more grace in my friendships than the blooper reel shows.

The next time you find yourself dwelling on past failures, try these three steps and see if you can switch out the bloopers for the highlight reel instead!

You’ll also like 5 Things You Need to Quit Right NowWhy You Should Just Have That Hard Conversation (And How to Do It)Let Go of Perfection and You’ll Make More Progress, Grace is Not Weakness; It Requires StrengthDon’t Let Your Failures Become Flounders and Just Because She’s Pretty, Doesn’t Mean You’re Not


Lynn is a former prom queen and tractor pull champion who knows every word to Taylor Swift’s songs and dreams of going on a European river cruise.

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