How to Successfully Recover from Messing Up
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How to Successfully Recover from Messing Up


So you walk out of that room, that bar, that frat, and realize that you have done something... something bad. Your stomach fills with knots, and your mind starts to race... you think to yourself... what now?We are young, we make mistakes, but when the mistakes have affected another person, how do we fix them?

“This is the time in our lives where we mess up. College is this 4 year limbo where we get this out of our systems”

A very good friend told me this in response to my ruminating over my most recent mistake. It is true, college seems to be a buffer zone where we can make mistakes and not have to deal with many of the consequences of the real world. But in this case my mistake hurt someone. I couldn’t take it back, or repair it in any sense other than an apology, which didn’t seem to be enough.

So when we mess up, which we inevitably will, what is the best way for us to both get back on our feet, and try to fix what we have done? I have done a sort of meta-reflection on the stages that I have found helpful to putting this behind me.

1.     Accept and admit to yourself that you have done something wrong

Personally, after I make a big mistake I try to downplay it in my head. In order to make myself feel better I tell myself “it could have been worse,” and, “everything is going to blow over.” Although in most cases, things will blow over, and there are always worse scenarios that could have happened, it is important that we hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Instead of trying to justify your actions or minimize them, tell yourself: “I did a bad thing. Period.”

2.     Confide in your friends

Tell the people you really trust, and who you know will support you and love you no matter what, but who are not afraid to give it to you strait. Being “scolded” by friends is difficult, but you have to remember that friends who care about you just want to make sure that you are making the best decisions for yourself, and are learning from your wrongdoings. Additionally, having to admit your blunders to other people, and especially other people whose opinions matter to you, can make you more in tune with the consequences of your actions. Your friends can also give you helpful advice on how to proceed.

3.     If you need to apologize: DO IT 

Apologies are hard, awkward and often painful, but they are so important to give if you have done something that might have hurt someone else. Make sure that your apology is thoughtful and genuine, and don’t make excuses for yourself. The person that you hurt might not come around right away, or they may never forgive you. An apology won’t fix the problem, but at least you have let the person know that you know and care that you have hurt them.

4.     Remember that you are not a bad person

When we make mistakes its easy and natural to get down on ourselves. Although we should feel remorse for our mistakes, we have to remember that everyone makes them, and that it doesn’t mean that we are all bad people. We are all imperfect, and that is what makes us human. Telling yourself that you are a bad person is neither constructive, nor true, and deep down, you know that. 

5.     Learn from it, and move on

After you have apologized or done everything in your power to fix the mistake, its time to let it go. As unfortunate as the consequences for our actions might be, they are what teach us how to make better decisions in the future. I read somewhere that the definition of insanity is repeating the same action (in this case, a mistake) and expecting a different result. So instead of continuing to beat yourself up for your wrong doing, promise yourself and commit to never making this mistake again.

Although college is a period of time that allows us some “oops” moments, it is important to do our best to handle these moments in a constructive way. I often wish that I could simply erase my mistakes, but until I develop this revolutionary technology, this is not an option. In order make sure that we are not defined by our mistakes, we must take the appropriate measures to fix them, and most importantly, do everything we can to prevent them from happening in the future.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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