How to Stop Hating Yourself for Past Mistakes

This week, my brother Stephen and I answer the question, “Is it possible to ‘blow it’ with the right person?” and share how you can turn self-loathing into a better relationship with yourself (and your future partner) . . .

Let’s Collect the Wisdom & the Treasure, Together.
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Stephen:

We got an email in, Matthew, from a man, 27, in Denmark. And he says, “Hi, if we can do all these things right and wrong in dating, which you address in your advice, how can it be true to say that the right person will also choose you? I was recently dumped by a girl I dated for six weeks and I have been torturing myself ever since, trying to figure out if I lost out on her because I failed to implement the advice you give on dating and flirting. Thank you so much for your wonderful work.”

 

Matthew:

What a great question. Do we know his name or he didn’t offer his name or doesn’t want to?

 

Stephen:

His name is in the subject line, but not in the email.

 

Matthew:

Okay, fair enough.

 

Stephen:

So I’m going to assume he is anonymous. I feel that gets to the crux of if there’s fate or choice in love.

 

Matthew:

I believe that this is a paradox to be managed. That we do have a choice over how we act, how we behave. But that we also . . . And of course, what that does is, it invites the kind of self-loathing and guilt and anxiety that comes from thinking we blew it. We could have done something different and we blew it. Had we done something different, we would have still had that person now. But then, of course, someone will watch me in another video and say that person, if they didn’t choose you, then they weren’t for you. And people will say, “Well, how do you manage those two ideas? Because if I’d have done something different . . . Your entire advice, and what you do, is based on this idea that we can change the results we’re getting based on changes in our behavior.”

 

Stephen:

And if there’s a right person for me, then I can’t blow it with them, right? Like, how can I blow it if they’re the right person and we match. Then is it possible to blow it with “the one”?

 

Matthew:

So firstly, it would certainly have been true that had you done something different in a relationship that you were in, you would have gotten a different result. Now, the different result may not have been the result you wanted, or it may have. It may have been that person decided they wanted to stay with you. It might be that if you did something different, they would have stayed with you for another six months before bailing, or you would have prolonged the relationship by another two years. If you didn’t have that argument that you had that day that precipitated the breakup, that argument may have happened a week later. It would have changed something, but assuming it would have changed it to the result you want, is not necessarily true, highly unlikely. So that’s the first thing, but yes, changes in behavior change the outcome.

But the idea that if only I’d have done something different is where . . . the kind of ridiculous notion. This is where we’re torturing ourselves over science fiction. You did what you did because that’s who you were then. Like, I do believe in a kind of determinism, that you were always going to do what you did then. You wishing you’d done something different is you wanting to be another human being. It’s your desire to be living in some parallel universe, because in this universe that’s not what was going to happen. You did what you did. Based on your brain chemistry, based on your experience, based on your upbringing, based on your inputs in life—societal, environmental, cultural—based on your insecurities, based on your strengths, you did what you did.

It’s also, by the way, based on your strengths that you were even in that relationship in the first place, right? Not just your weaknesses, but your strengths, is what meant you were even in that relationship. So firstly, you can’t undo something you wish you’d done differently without also unraveling all of the good things about you that have brought you the good things in your life. We don’t get to be a la cart in our wanting to strip away one piece of our DNA that says “I no longer do that thing” without changing the whole system. Wishing that we did something different is wishing to be a different person. We don’t get to do that. But that experience, having that experience, having, losing someone, going through something becomes a new input in the system that changes us in some way. And that change is what’s given us the insight now that makes us say, “I would do something different next time.” But you don’t have insight without having done certain things.

By the way, to the guy that wrote this in, it doesn’t mean by the way, don’t mistake what I’m saying with the agreement that it was just him that created that breakup. We think, “If I’d have just done . . . “ It’s like Groundhog Day, right? When Bill Murray thinks that he’s figured out how to get the girl and he keeps trying to replicate the day that she fell for him. And no matter what he does, he keeps going back, thinking that by changing something, he’s going to be able to program the result. And he can’t. It doesn’t work. He reprograms it again and again, and again, hundreds of times and nothing . . . He keeps getting the wrong result. We think if we went back and changed the thing that we think was the problem then we’d get the result we want, but that’s a lie.

 

Stephen:

And really, it only changes for him when he has become a completely different person over, essentially, years within the confines of the movie.

 

Matthew:

Exactly.

 

Stephen:

He is completely different as a person.

 

Matthew:

Exactly. Because getting someone is not . . . The things that we talk about . . . Steve, the big misunderstanding about what we do is that it’s just about strategies. It’s about becoming an evolved version of yourself. Because when you are, and when you do certain things, they’re congruent. They’re not a strategy in isolation. They are in a natural extension of the confidence and the self-love and the love for other people that you’ve developed. That takes time. And going back and simply changing a strategy doesn’t mean you’d get the result that you wanted. And it doesn’t mean that was everything that was wrong in the first place. She could have broken up with him for any number of reasons that he doesn’t know about, that would involve a fundamental change in his being, which he wouldn’t be willing or able to do. We have to accept that I’m only having this feeling of guilt or self-loathing or wishing I could change something . . . I’m only having that now because it happened. I wouldn’t have this insight now that makes me want to change and be able to do something different and go back. I’m only having that insight now because that thing happened. I don’t get the insight without the heartbreak. I can’t.

And you might say, “Yeah, but Matt, I knew. I knew even then I was like, ‘if I keep being jealous like this, if I keep being controlling like this, I’m going to lose this person.’ I knew that then. This isn’t new information. I knew it then. And I still did it.” Yeah, you didn’t know it enough. You knew then logically, you even knew emotionally, but not enough. Not enough to make you go, “I’m never doing this again because I can’t bear to be this way anymore.”

There’s a certain point in life where we personally get to a point of saying, “I can’t bear to be a certain way anymore. I’m unprepared, unwilling, unable to live a certain way anymore.” And there’s truth to that idea that people change when they’re ready. Not when they think it’s a good idea. And ready doesn’t mean, “I’m ready to change now.” Ready means, “I cannot be this way anymore.” And you can lose someone by doing something you even knew it would cost you this person if you kept doing it. You knew. They came home, you decided to be controlling or go on a jealous tirade or say something. And you knew, a part of you knew, even when you did it, this . . . “I know that doing this is going to create even more problems in my relationship. It’s going to make someone think I’m too much or it’s going to . . .” You knew, but you weren’t ready to change it.

 

Stephen:

Yeah. It’s like your body hasn’t caught up to your brain yet. You can, like, know how to do a great tennis serve, but you’re not ready. You haven’t actually learned and mastered that yet. You’re still figuring it out. And it’s like, like going back and being like, “Man, when I screwed up, when I was 21 with that first serious girlfriend” or “if I wasn’t that insecure mess . . . ” It’s like you were a different person then. And you had to like go through so much evolving, so many screw ups to get sick of how you were at that point.

 

Matthew:

This is the thing, like the realization we’re having now, that says, “I’m going to change” is usually a result of our heartbreaks. And I’m not just talking in love, I’m talking in any part of life. Our hearts break in many different ways in our lifetimes. Sometimes, we get to a point where something we’ve been doing to our body physically creates a trauma for us or makes us have to go through some disease. Some physical problem that wakes us up and makes us go, “Oh my God, never again. I can’t live like this anymore.” And there’s a kind of heartbreak that has led to that. There’s the heartbreak of I’ve hurt myself. There’s a heartbreak of my body doesn’t work the way that I want it to anymore as a result of what I’ve been doing to it.

There’s a loss there. Heartbreak comes in many different ways in life. And sometimes the heartbreak is just that you can get an existential heartbreak. Where you go . . . You can achieve and do all the things you think were going to make you happy in life. And none of them worked and you got to a place of heartbreak. You were heartbroken. We may not think of it like this, but it’s a kind of heartbreak, a kind of existential heartbreak. I thought all of this would make me happy. I thought if I made enough money, I thought if I outran my problems from childhood by achieving, I thought if I could just make myself popular enough in the second phase of my life or the third phase of my life, if I could make everyone love me, I thought that would work.

And none of it did. And now you’re heartbroken. You’re heartbroken. And that makes you look for something else. It makes you say, “I need something else in my life. I need to do something else. I’ve got to do things differently. I’ve got to go on a different path to find some new level of meaning, find peace somewhere else. It’s not in these things. I’m heartbroken.” You’re heartbroken, but you don’t get to that heartbreak without having done those things. It’s the heartbreak that precipitates the change. And wishing that you’d made the change before the heartbreak is like wishing that two plus two equals five. It wasn’t going to happen that way. You needed this to get to that. And so I say to this guy, your email to us, it’s not that changes in your behavior . . . For 14 years, I’ve talked about behavioral changes that can lead to more attraction, more relationships, better relationships, a better relationship with yourself . . .

It’s not that those things aren’t true. It’s not that you can’t make a change in the system that changes your outcome. That’s true. But whether you’re capable of making that change in that very moment is dependent on all of the dominoes that went before that in your life that led to this moment. And whether your brain, your mind, the way you think, the way you’re set up to make decisions or act is ready for that next domino, or maybe it’s not.

But by the way, even when, Steve, people come across us—and I know I’m getting real . . . like this is a bit heady—but when someone meets us and comes across our work, that’s a change in the system. That’s an input into the system that they may not have had if they didn’t stumble across that YouTube video.

So the very fact that they do . . . Steve, it’s like when someone says to us, “I wish I’d discovered you 20 years ago.” Right? “I wish I’d seen your videos 10 years ago.” And, “I wish I’d been doing this differently all along.” You got the input when you did, you couldn’t control that. The input came into your life when it did and that’s now introduced a change in the system when it has. But wishing that you’d have had this sooner is like, again, it’s like wishing for a change in the laws of physics. That guy emailing us, at the crux of his question is this: You say that if we do things differently, we will get a different result. And I love the empowerment that comes from that. However, in this case, my believing that equates to me hating myself. Because what it means is I could have done something different and, therefore, I am at fault for the loss of the love in my life or the love of my life.

So believing what you say, that we have agency is the same thing as hating myself for not being proactive with that agency and not doing what I could have. And what I am saying to you, sir, is that you have agency. But the agency you now have, the heightened level of agency you now have could only, for you in your life, have come from this situation that has arisen. And you wishing that you could have done something different is you wishing for a different universe because the one way you’re emailing us now, saying this, only happens with that sequence of events.

 

Stephen:

Well, I think we’ve solved not only his romantic issue, but perhaps his views on determinism and existentialism, fate and luck. I feel we’ve solved free will here.

 

Matthew:

Yeah. Heady episode, but hopefully it lands. I really hope it lands because I believe that in there is the key to self-forgiveness. One of the worst feelings in the world is when we torture ourselves over things we could have done differently. And one of the great gifts that I’m able to give myself in my more sober and wise moments is to know that younger Matthew—and by that I mean, Matthew from six months ago, a year ago, three years ago—he did what he was always going to do. And that there isn’t a world where he did something different. If it is, it’s not our world. This Matthew did what he was going to do. So the self-loathing has to be let go of, because there’s no . . . I was never going to do something different. That’s what I was going to do, because that’s what I did.

So it doesn’t mean it didn’t cost me. It doesn’t mean that there’s not pain in my life as a result of things I’ve done. It’s just I wasn’t going to do something different. I have the pain, but torturing myself for it is to wish for a different universal all together. And it’s also a lack of acknowledgement of the treasure that that pain has brought me and will bring me in my life as a result of the response I’m now having. That guy who wrote that email in . . . To wish . . . He is about to gain a whole lot of treasure in his life as a result of that breakup. Sending us this email, hearing all of this today, and all of the decisions he’s going to make as a result of that, all of the things he’s going to do, what he’ll pass onto other people, what he’ll do in his life . . . All of those things is treasure that could only have arisen out of that.

And his desire to go and change that is actually a desire to be a more ignorant person, because he wouldn’t be having this insight right now. And all of the treasure that would have come out of that insight would never come to him without it. So it’s not just wishing for a different universe. It’s wishing for a more ignorant version of ourselves. And, take heart in knowing that if you did do something different and you kept a more ignorant version of yourself, you’d be just as liable to make the same mistakes a year on in your life anyway, or six months on, or whatever. Those mistakes would still be there in waiting for you, because you wouldn’t have got the wisdom that comes from making them.

 

Stephen:

Make your mistakes early, man, and turn them into lessons. And you’re well on your way. You’re 27, make all the mistakes now and take the wisdom from it.

13 Responses to How to Stop Hating Yourself for Past Mistakes

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  1. Tomas says:

    Hello Matthew

    My name is Tomas and I am 26 years old. I recently found your youtube channel and it helped me a lot. But still, I could not find the solution to my problem. My problem and question is that I had a (girl) – frined as a friend with benefits for a half year. We both were hurt from the previous relationship so we did not want to start something new but only have fun but eventually, we fell in love. We both were so stubborn that we did not tell each other even we were talking about everything yet not about the feelings that we had for each other. Eventually, she said it is over and I admitted that I am in love with her and she said that it is too late she was in love too but I did not do anything while we were the only friends with benefits. She moved on kind of quickly and starting seeing a new guy and I am still deep in love with her and I see her almost every day. I am not sure how to overcome that pain and stop being in love with her. We were not in a relationship and we did not even try it. We did not do anything bad to each other except we did not say anything about our feeling. Now she and I want to be still friends and I am pretending that everything is OK yet it is not and it hurt me a lot to look at her every day. Is it a good idea to stay a friend with her and that pain will eventually go away or should I just give up completely on her and not even talking to her. And I hate myself for it. I hate myself that I did not do the first move and that I did not see the little things she was doing to let me know that she is also in love with me. And I do not know how to let that feeling go away that If I would do it differently then we would be together.

    Have a great day

  2. Prisca Nobukhosi says:

    I once heard that “its hard to mess up the right thing”.Being in a relationship involves a commitment to love that particular person.A commitment does not mean it will be easy.It involves working on the relationship and good communication .If a partner gives up easily on you,they were bound to do that even if you were to rewind everything and change your behaviour. Its easy to beat oneself as a weird coping up strategy to the breakup.You can never force investment from someone.

  3. Mona Rangar says:

    Brilliant post. I’m about to turn 44 and still making mistakes! But nipping them in the bud a bit sooner now as I’ve reached my ‘have to change now..’ time which feels uncomfortable because I’ve been making them for so long but liberating at the same time. As Matthew says there’s a kind of loss that goes with it which is heartbreaking in itself but you have to believe that things happen for a reason and it’s the universe’s way of saying learn the lesson and apply it next time which you wouldn’t have had, had you not made the mistake in the first place.. I find cutting the person who hurt you out permanently and quickly a useful thing to do as well. Rip the plaster off ASAP. Accept you’ll feel hurt but also trust that the universe is protecting you..

  4. Rebecca says:

    You make it sound like anyone could be with anyone provided they had developed enough of the skills you recommend. But it’s not true. Socio-economic background, life goals, interest in a relationship- so many things come into play, ie your personality. I know you agree otherwise one magic message would score 100% replies.

    People don’t generally break up with their partner, even of 6 weeks, over one small action. It’s many actions, or a bad fit personality-wise.

    The way I see it is MH is a pro at advice for building attraction, confidence, communication, self respect, but these are skills. They’re not your personality.

    She wasn’t right for not because you stuffed up one thing. She’s not right because she can see something in your personalities not aligning. Get back out there and find the girl who digs you for your personality while you continue to develop MH skills.

  5. Ro says:

    Precise, concise, to the point
    Finally I learnt we can only control our thoughts and our actions
    Thank you for sharing your brillant mind

  6. Bridget Bond says:

    This “lands”. Thank you both for a great reminder…we all have our set of dominoes that will play out and keep self-loathing in check.

  7. Kalvinder says:

    Matthew I was given an ultimatum by my father “ enough , it’s him or us” and I was straight into stress response : fight or flight and I rationalised it as if I cannot protect myself from my ex hiw am I going to protect my children. My ex was passive aggressive sbd lashed out verbally abd then after 16 months every few months it was physical( pushing , shoving and last occasion a back handed slap). I needed time to decide to leave or stay but just dad too control away from me over my own life. I fell apart. Had two years counselling privately and was told I did not know the games to play with motherinlaw sbd ended up clinically depressed sbd saw a consultant clinical psychologist as an out patient one hour a week for two years in which time my mum died of cancer ( in five months from diagnosis to destroy). If only I had not listened to my dad I would still be with him abd I would have not had to go throw the last 27 years in so much pain and distress snc on my iwn. Why dud this happen to me. I know there was jeolousy on the part if mother inlaw and his maternal grandmother made bitchy comments and his aunties says sbd dud some nasty. I was being dumped on abd scapegoated all the time. Why? My ex finally after four years of me tolerating this suggested we move away from both families. But he never saw the pain they caused him ir acknowledged it or accepted it was wrong. I felt he totally grtested me by hitting me. But I ruined my life and wasted 27 years lost in emotional pain as I missed him so much. Did I just cut my nose off to spite my face? No my family emotionally manipulated me in every way to get me away from him: my mum saying yiu can leave him uf you want , we don’t mind. My kid brother saying do you want really want to bring children into that marriage, my elder brother saying it’s time you stood up to him sbd good riddance to bad rubbish. My dad giving me the ultimatum. But it was my life sbd my choice and they seemed to do everything to get ke away from him. Surely it was my choice not theirs. I have seen so many worse marriages that are still together after 37 years and three kids. Why me? Why did my own family do this. Because he was taking me away from them but he was my future not them.

  8. Candace says:

    So true! When we know better, we do better (hopefully)! We’re not the same person as we were a day ago, hour ago, minute or second ago, but constantly evolving, upgrading by constantly shedding layers to ultimately reveal the highest version of ourselves. It’s not a linear process but moreso like making two steps forward and one back..like a cha cha! Thanks so much!

  9. Liz says:

    Love this, so true, you learn each time. It all helps you explore what you are also yearning for in others that may have been missing in the person you lost.

  10. Jasmine says:

    WOW, I’m speechless after watching it. The message is so powerful and divine, and so heart felt. It really does apply to all area of our lives too. SELF LOVE!! THANK YOU SO MUCH MATTHEW! You are an Angel. : )

  11. Vera says:

    Whoow!!! One of the best Videos you ever made!
    Every explanaition you did is so smart, sounds so precious to me! You really found the right words! This was what I needed to hear right now! I hardly smiled because I broke up yesterday…I slam the door… put all in because I did not see another chance of making him realise who I am. I guess in our 2 years „Situationship“ he finally lost his respect for me… I was too easy, too conviniend for him… I did it because I had to. I couldn‘t go on like this anymore. In that second I knew that it was over…He won‘t call me in the Future. And I‘m sure I lost the Love of my life! I‘m 50 years now. I still love him, but I know he has his purpose… He will Never make me his priority though he likes me very much. He’s such a great person! The sex was incredible too. I‘m on my own now… and it hurts so much! I will survive… wish you all the best! Vera, Germany

  12. Ratinder says:

    Hey Dear Matthew G ❤️ . Thanks so much for everything and for being a “Amazing and Perfect Man to be with “.This is a never ending topic and with your wealth of knowledge You said all perfectly .So many pass through this phase that fail them to trust again ,be it Relationship or any other area making them view what’s better to best holds for them .The -ve thing is when we feel that we have read all the person page to page and there is only materialistic and reason peron only . When the dust start to settle and we find a person we always have thought of ,then we realise there are other volumes of better person …
    Problem start coming when we fail to distinguish between fear and intuition .Body start picking up on the wrong things happening around but due to fear of loss we start giving chances to the person repeatedly and then he/she start taking advantage of it and person sit back waiting for the miracle to happen that person will change one day as the other is right in all aspects .The head versus feelings inside the body creates awareness to the thoughts and more awareness goes inside the more right direction the person finds and then it’s to go for it . Whatever happened ,all human beings do mistakes but instead of blaming of hating self ,it’s to find the right person who is not selfish but have the greed to bring the best of the person to the world by accepting his flaws and differences equally with more respect and love …
    The doubts and curiosity when in a new Relationship with a new person clear the vision of future when questions become offerings.Its great when the person is open to what actually is going to happen and able to see a full picture of future with the right One …It will lead to a connection and stability never felt with anyone before and the person will be able to say it’s something natural and beautiful with this person .
    Its right to say that instead of blaming self or the other person blaming the specific one starting a relationship minus questions or doubt is perfect thing because that person will invest in a person and it will be a life time relation without a doubt .I hope YOU like it . Thanks once again for everything and do let me know if I can do anything anytime .All my genuine Care and concern your way along with my consistent support throughout . Keep rising on this glorious path and stay on the top which YOU so deserve and Get all YOU Want . Each day and each moment give YOU a new reason to smile . Waiting for YOUR reply and response . Have a nice weekend and stay healthy and blessed always .
    Cheers
    Loyalty and Trust Forever
    Ratinder

  13. Emi says:

    Thank you for describing exactly how and why I sometimes feel “no regret”, while I grieve a loss. It was liberating to hear what’s happening in everyone’s reality, in such an articulate, fluent chain of words. <3

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