Why I’m learning to let go of my mistakes

Growing up is hard. There is always trouble and there is always heartache, but we seem to grow stronger as we age. Maybe because it’s all relative, and aging just comes with bigger responsibilities and therefore bigger problems to deal with. Maybe we’re just really resilient.

At this point in my life, I am a prime-time twenty-something, according to Taylor Swift. This is the first time that I’m completely on my own, and I’m definitely making some mistakes. I’m spending too much money on clothes and alcohol, and I’m the one that suffers when I can’t even afford the ramen I don’t want for dinner. I then drink too much of said alcohol and I act like a crazy person who gets high on saying the worst possible things she can think of to my friends and family. I struggle to build and/or hold on to any type of relationship, constantly afraid that it won’t last because we’re all going through a “life-changing” process and I worry that “some people just grow apart.” Also, my anxiety levels are THROUGH the roof, but that’s an entirely different story.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that these are the times I wish I had a rulebook for my life. Sure, there are guidelines, or even just a set of ideals that people tend to follow. But who says that’s how we should act? We’re all different, so why should we all try to be the same?

I want to make my own rules. I want to use my long list of mistakes—past, present and future—to build my own uniquely specific guide to life. The trick, however, is actually learning from those mistakes instead of getting so hung up on them that you stop living your life, and I’ve yet to master that.

I made a pretty big mistake recently. Well, in my warped mind, it was a big mistake. To most other people that witnessed it, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. In fact, it’s something everybody has done at least once in his or her life, if not ten times. But for some reason, I can’t seem to let it go. 

What exactly happened isn’t important, but I will say that my actions stopped something else from happening; something that may not have even been good for me. But as a member of my generation, one where women have become so empowered and are working every day to prove their worth, the pressure is heavy. And all I can do is blame myself. All I can think about is how badly I messed up, or how I was the one that caused this chain of events. 

As contradictory as it may seem though, I know that I shouldn’t apologize for being wholly and completely 100% myself. Nobody should. Sure, I made a mistake. But I made that mistake. I didn’t ruin anybody’s life, or cause a natural disaster. I just acted like a 22-year-old who isn’t perfect. So who cares if someone else didn’t like it? Amy Poehler isn’t scared of being unlikable. Neither is Mindy Kaling, or Lena Dunham. Or even Taylor Swift for that matter. And those four women are some of the most incredible and successful women alive today. That’s not to discount every other incredible soul out there who is making moves and making changes, but in this particular situation, the one where I am just living through my twenties and trying to make it out on the other side with some semblance of sanity, those are the women who inspire me. 

They’re real. They’re honest. They’re true to who they are, even if it means acting like a fool, or making a big mistake (in front of the media, and in turn, thousands of judgmental people). In Amy Poehler’s new book, Yes Please, she tackles this very topic, stating, “Your brain is not your friend when you need to apologize.” She reminds us to be kind to ourselves when we mess up, and to use any shame or regret as a motivator, not a form of paralyses. 

If I do strive to be any type of person in life, or if there is any one rule or guideline I follow, it’s just to be myself and to feel no shame in it. There is power in your ability to function on your own. So believe that you are functioning. Are you alive? Are you healthy? Are you feeding yourself? If you answered, “yes” to any one of those questions, then you’re doing just fine. If anyone tells you otherwise, forget them! Who are they to tell you how to live your life? There is no one person in this world who knows you the way you know yourself. Relish in that fact and just keep swimming.

Shelby Katz is a full-time chocolate lover, writer and fashion enthusiast. Her writing on fashion, culture and beauty has appeared on harpersbazaar.com, and The Huffington Post. She’s just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world. . . and trying to figure it all out one day at a time. She enjoys black and white cookies, weekly horoscopes, and Old Hollywood films. Follow Shelby on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with her adventures. 

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