What should I do about past mistakes?
Hello there, I'm a furry from the UK. Due to past experiences (which I'd rather not disclose), I ended up developing a very unhealthy coping mechanism that involved me posting controversial (think political) comments, with the intention of sowing hatred against myself. One of these incidents, involving a well-known furry, went too far, and I was evicted from at least one furmeet on the grounds of causing them unnecessary drama.
Since then, I've thrown all of my effort into a complete turnaround of who I am as a person, and I honestly like who I am now. I've accepted that some bridges must remain burned because of my past actions, however, I do still think about my mistakes on a daily basis, to the extent that it has affected my overall mental health. I've accepted that I'll likely have to live with that mistake hanging over me for the rest of my life, but it has also manifested into an innate paranoia that those who have 'let me back in' secretly despise me, and are waiting for an excuse to cut me out yet again, despite what they have said to me directly. I'm not sure what to do regarding these feelings, as I see people being 'cancelled' every day for mistakes I feel are far less egregious than my own. I'm at the point where I'm honestly just waiting to be 'cancelled' myself, and it's giving me no end of stress.
What should I do regarding my past mistakes and how to deal with them?
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Everyone is guilty of some transgressions in their lives, and no one can “cast the first stone” as a result. In other words, we are not perfect, and that’s okay. I’ve certainly done some things that I regret and that have hurt people in the past. Since you do not detail exactly what you did, I will speak in generic terms here, which in its way is better as this letter could help others who read it more if they can see how it applies to a variety of cases. For that, I thank you for your important letter.
What you need to do is take the path towards forgiving yourself and getting on with your life, whether or not others forgive you, too. Remember, you can’t control how others will react, but you can control your own actions.
You have already taken the first important step, which is acknowledging that you did something wrong in the first place, so good for you on that point!
Second is to ask those you have harmed for forgiveness. Doing so must be absolutely sincere (people can tell when you’re not sincere, so don’t kid yourself), but you should be prepared for the fact that not everyone will forgive you. Hopefully they will, but you’ll have to accept that they sometimes won’t. It seems, too, from your letter that you are coming to terms with that, which is quite mature of you.
Third is to forgive yourself. You can’t move ahead if you don’t believe in yourself and that you can do better. If you’re always saying negative things about yourself (e.g. “I’m a bad person,” “I’m an idiot,” etc.) you will bury yourself in a deep hole from which you can’t climb out. When you feel negative thoughts enter your head, counteract them with positive statements like “I am a caring person who is trying to do better and to be more helpful to and appreciative of others.”
Fourth: learn from the past. Let’s face it, we can’t grow as people if we never make a mistake! Learn from those mistakes. For example, many people (including yours truly) have sent off angry emails (or social media posts) without thinking first only to regret them later. Before you shoot yourself in the foot, the lesson here is, take some time to cool off and really think about what was said and how you will respond. Then, go ahead and write that email, but save it in a draft first. Wait a day, then go back and re-read it. At that point, you might choose to edit it or maybe delete it entirely.
Fifth: Go out into the community again (yes, in person if you can) and try to make amends with others and be good to them. Three things can happen here: 1) you will find that you are forgiven a lot sooner than you expected to be; 2) you might not be accepted right away but, with time and work, you will regain your friends’ trust; or 3) some might never forgive you. All three of these have happened to me, and #3 can be sad, but at least you will have learned more about relationships and, in the future, be prepared and equipped to do better (I am a much better friend these days than I was as a kid and as a young adult).
Sixth: Gain empathy. Now that you know you’re not perfect and you need forgiveness, you should develop empathy for others so that when they transgress against you, you will know what this is like from their perspective and be able to forgive them should they seek that forgiveness.
Seventh: Realize that you are worthy of love and friendship. We are all beautiful in our emotional and psychological complexities. We have good and bad points. So give yourself a break and go buy yourself a nice ice cream treat.
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