Everything happens for a reason. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You learn from your mistakes. These are the classic, age-old clichés.
However, these sayings don’t hold much value until they’re all you have to hold on to.
I recently made a pretty sizable mistake.
Now, I’m not talking about the “Oops, I got back together with that jerk” mistake or the “I accidentally ate an entire box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts” mistake. I’m referring to a big, glaring life choice you know you can’t blame on anyone else but yourself (although I do have a few ex-boyfriend and doughnut mistakes under my belt, too.)
After I realized the gravity of my actions, I found myself in the throes of self-pity, tears and lack of sleep. Then, one day, I remembered those old clichés I had always overlooked, and I realized they might actually mean something.
Maybe everything, even a seemingly bad thing, does happen for a reason. Maybe I could learn from my choices and become stronger. Maybe I could take this experience and grow from it.
I knew, at that point, I could either continue asking the universe, “Why me?” or I could try to see if this negative situation really did have a positive outcome.
I chose the latter. And here’s what I discovered: Making a big mistake can make you a bigger person.
You learn to be less judgmental of others.
We’ve all had those thoughts. Those “I would never be that person” thoughts.
There’s that moment when you see someone in a bad place and you silently congratulate yourself for not being “that type.” It’s an awful truth that, as human beings, we tend to look down on people who have made poor choices instead of seeing them as people in need.
It takes experience to gain empathy. I have certainly realized how to take a step back and pause before passing judgment on someone else’s situation.
You learn to appreciate the people who love and support you, no matter what.
My mom and dad could’ve easily gone on a total rant after what had happened. But they didn’t.
They never once yelled or turned their backs on me. Even though I should’ve never taken their unconditional support for granted, this was a wake-up call for me to realize how lucky I truly am.
I like to consider myself a good person, but I must admit I’ve never been the caring daughter they deserve. I was raised by two people who would give up just about anything to ensure my happiness, but I grew to expect it instead of appreciate it.
This experience has taught me how important it is to show everyone in your life how much they mean to you.
You can have some real conversations with people.
I’m talking about those awful, uncomfortable and super hard conversations.
When we make mistakes, it’s natural to want to ignore them; because if we ignore them, we can pretend they never happened. However, that’s not how life works.
It’s necessary to put your big girl pants on, sit down at the kitchen table and tell your mother you’re sorry.
It’s never easy to admit you messed up or (surprise, surprise) you're not always right, but these genuine conversations will be the ones you take the most away from and the ones you always remember.
You realize not everything in life will go according to plan.
I’ve always been a perfectionist, and I’ve given up trying to deny that.
I was my high school's valedictorian, a model college student and an undeniable go-getter. My life on paper was flawless, and I never wanted that to change.
But someone like me needs to make mistakes in order to realize not everything in life will be smooth sailing. You can organize your planner all day long, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the universe will have the same agenda. Things can (and will) go wrong.
That’s not to say nothing will ever go your way again. It just means you might have to work a little harder, accept your imperfections and adapt.
You’re forced to self-reflect.
As a result of the accomplishments I mentioned above, I grew to be pretty proud of myself. I don’t think I was an egomaniac by any means, but I certainly thought of myself as invincible at times.
Even though my choices do not belittle my successes, they’ve made me realize how necessary it is for humans to self-reflect.
There is always room to improve as a person. I am not yet my best self, and I am certainly not invincible. How sad of a life would it be if none of us ever took the time to really look in the mirror?
You can choose to sink into a hole or come out a better person.
Now, I’m not saying you’re not allowed to lie in bed with your tears and regrets after making a mistake. Trust me, I did plenty of that. But as time passes, you have to decide if you're going to stay in a pile of crumbled pieces or if you're going to rebuild yourself.
You can choose to keep calling all of those clichés useless, or you can try to understand why they mean so much to people.
Life is full of choices.