Mistaken Identity

“You’re not perfect, but you’re not your mistakes”- Kanye West

Starting off, the above quote is from Kanye’s “Only One”. It’s the song that cured my writer’s block that has plagued me for quite some time and that lyric that you see up there is the main reason why. It’s a reminder that we are flawed as humans but our mistakes aren’t our identity. We are so much more than our mistakes and we should never exclude other facets of ourselves, like our love and our goals. We also should never let anyone else diminish our identity and only focus on our mistakes. Nobody has that right because we all are in the same position in life and we all are far from perfect.

Recently, I’ve had a lot of pressure going on due to some big life decisions like buying a house and starting a new job and I found myself being anxious and worrisome. Like most people, when I get anxious I tend to reminisce about the past and it’s not like a gentle stroll down memory lane. It’s more like a full-blown sprint into the brick wall of my past mistakes. It’s common to do this. I used to think I was the only one that, under pressure, suddenly got upset again over something as trivial as a botched job of chocolate chip cookies and even something as far gone as when I snuck out of the house and got caught in high school. I suppose our minds do this to distract us from our future that is fast approaching. This is not ideal though because we are moving forward in life and it’s just like walking: if you’re looking behind you and you’re walking forward, you’re going to trip or run into something. Obsessing about your past mistakes throws you off your path.

So, I can’t really turn my brain off from this obnoxious habit but when it gets like this I find that distracting this self-destructive thinking with another activity is the best option. Writing helps me and when that doesn’t pan out, like the last few months, I have turned to running, baking, or looking at other hands-on projects. It’s amazing how some fresh air or creating something new can get you back on track. If that doesn’t work and you keep on dwelling on those mistakes, try and replace them with positive events like when you graduated or had another achievement because we all make mistakes but we all achieve too. Never forget that.

It’s not hard to get yourself in check when you do focus on your mistakes, but when others do it, it is difficult and can be more damaging. I’ve had people characterize me based off of one mistake that they didn’t even fully understand themselves and it has ruined bonds. Just knowing that they only see your mistakes when they look at you can make you feel diminished as a person and it is a giant blow to any self-confidence you have. It sucked the positive out of me and replaced it with doubt and shame even though I know the individual didn’t know my story. The problem lies in the fact that each of our individual experiences are so personal by nature that we can never fully understand one another because we lead unique lives. We can only empathize and try to understand to the best of our capabilities but that doesn’t happen as often as it should.

Dealing with these situations where the people don’t understand and you feel like they have you in their mind as (insert mistake here) is never easy. You can choose to cut ties with them which, quite frankly, isn’t too bad if you think about it. If they’re incapable of getting past their biased view of you, then you didn’t really need their lack of understanding in the first place. The next option is that you can choose to try and show them your capabilities. If they seem to want to get to know you better, they may be open to seeing that you have more to offer than just a past memory of a mistake that they’ve imprinted on you. This option is usually if the relationship needs saving, like if it professional in nature or if it is a family member. An example would be if I messed up on a major presentation and my co-worker defines the rest of my work by that mistake. I can offer to collaborate with them on something new and show them that I have the skills to excel. Remember that you don’t have to explain the past, but you can show someone how it made you stronger.

That’s really what mistakes are. They are ways to make us stronger. The mistakes that we make don’t break us; they build us up. None of us are born perfect beings and, by being molded by our life experiences, we can reach our true potential as humans. I am still learning this and I still get distracted but with Kanye’s lyric in mind, I won’t forget that I am learning. As mortifying and devastating as my past mistakes were, I wouldn’t be where I am currently if I hadn’t gone through them. So, go live and go make mistakes but never let them distract you from moving forward. You’re still standing strong so keep on fighting and don’t let anyone, even yourself, try and fool you otherwise.


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