When you were a child you thought like a child, you spoke like a child, and you acted like a child. You cannot expect anybody to know any better as a child than they know now. For instance, if you met a small child that had done something “wrong” or “bad” from a moralistic standpoint, would you really hold it against them? They haven’t learned the lessons adults are meant to learn yet. That’s the whole point of distinguishing between a child and an adult. A child is meant to be protected and guided. If that child does not act accordingly or is not taken care of properly, it is not that child’s fault. We could argue that it’s the adult parent’s fault in some ways, but in other ways that may not even be true either. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to be 100% responsible for another human being regardless of circumstance, but I know that you cannot hold a child 100% responsible for their actions if they haven’t been taught otherwise.
So, why are we so hard on our past selves? Why do we beat ourselves up for making mistakes when we literally didn’t know the gravity of our actions?
First, we must understand where these feelings are coming form. Childhood regret is a feeling that stems from actions that you may have taken against someone else. It’s the culmination of mistakes you’ve made in your past as a child that your adult mind now comprehends as “wrong” from a moral standpoint. It is a feeling of immense guilt and shame that is conjured in a manner in which we believe reflects negatively on our adult life. In other words, these are the mistakes we made in the past that are so traumatic that every time we think about them, it’s almost like we’re reliving them as an adult where said past behaviors are inherently unacceptable.
Since such mistakes are frowned upon in adults, the line between our childhood behavior and our adult behavior begins to blur. The guilt and shame can sometimes be extremely debilitating and painful. We begin to believe that we are the only person in the world who could ever have exhibited this behavior and we are no different from adults who do the same today.
The most common instances of childhood mistakes are lying and hurting someone else (physically and verbally) before you had an adequate understanding of how your words and actions could potentially affect another human being or child. The fact that you feel pain for both yourself and your victim tells society that you’ve learned whatever lesson you were supposed to learn. Can you imagine? An adult who never learned to feel pain for other human beings based on their actions? Either they’re a saint (unlikely), or they just don’t care about anyone.
You spend only about eighteen years as a child, but as an adult you spend the rest of your life. As an adult you are held accountable for your actions. It’s better to learn those lessons as a child than as an adult. You also have to remember that some people don’t learn these lessons. Period. They keep acting on their negative impulses and end up in serious trouble. Count your blessings that you didn’t end up like that.
THANK AND ACCEPT YOUR CHILDHOOD SELF
As a child if you committed an action that you later learned was wrong, it was because you had not yet acquired the mental capacity to discern why the ensuing action was wrong and you had not yet gone through the cycle of making mistakes enough times to know to thoroughly evaluate an action before taking it. If you did have that capacity and experience in life you would not have taken the action. As you got older, though, and wiser you begin to realize what you did was horribly wrong and begin to regret it and wish you could undo the behavior.
Unfortunately, there is no undo button on our lives, so most mistakes you’re going to have to learn to live with. That doesn’t mean you have to completely regret the action you took. Without that action you wouldn’t have had that real life example of why the behavior was wrong. If you’re feeling pain now because of the things you’ve done in the past, then guess what? You’ve learned your lesson and it’s very likely that you’ll never commit the action again. That is what growing up is all about! That is what society expects you to do. Childhood is like pre-season and training, but now.. Now, you’re in the game.
Don’t let those mistakes and issues hold you hostage and keep you from genuinely enjoying life. You’re not meant to get hung up on things like these. We all go through childhood mistakes that culminate into regrets in our adult life. That’s totally normal and it’s totally fine. You might feel that you’re all alone. That’s just not true. We ALL go through mistakes. That’s the nature of learning and growing up. That’s exactly what it means. You are applying your adulthood knowledge to your childhood experience and you’re applying your childhood experience to your adulthood life. That needs to stop. You learned a hard lesson and you are a much better and more compassionate person because of it. That’s all we’re really meant to do. Accept the past and be thankful for the mistakes that made you the perfectly wonderful person you are today.
LET THAT SHIT GO!
Don’t let things you did in the past debilitate you. Change your thoughts and understand that when you were a child you did not know any better and you are not the only person in this world who has done exactly what you did. You cannot let the mistakes you made in the past affect your life today. You’re just reliving it for no reason at all. It’s over. You learned. Let it go.
Your life as a child was to learn how to be an adult. We apply adult rules and judgments to children and that just isn’t fair. You cannot apply rules or judgments to someone who doesn’t comprehend what that rule is. The overarching universal exception should be when it comes to children. They are precious and they must be taught accordingly.
Don’t beat yourself up for things you did in the past. Look at them, accept them, and move on. You are not alone and you are not defined by your childhood. You’re defined by your adulthood, if anything.
If you need to talk about it, talk about it. If you don’t want to, then don’t. It’s about what’s going on in your head that matters most. Everyone has made mistakes as a child. That’s how we learn the difference between right and wrong. We have parents to teach us these lessons. Parents are human too, though, and sometimes even they make mistakes. How could childhood you expect to be any better?
Society knows you made a mistake, too. Society knows you were a child. Everyone makes mistakes. Especially as children. Don’t let that stop you from being your best you. The weight of childhood mistakes =/= the weight of adulthood mistakes.
- You are not alone. Billions of people have made the exact mistakes you have. Let it go.
- You made the mistake in order to learn to not commit that mistake in adulthood. That’s a huge part of growing up.
- DO NOT apply your adult brain to your child brain. You think the way you do today BECAUSE of that experience as a child.
- Accept that you didn’t know any better and accept that because of that experience you do know now. This is also a huge part of life.