Giving ourselves a second chance is a great show of love and compassion for ourselves. However, it is often easier for us to forgive the harm someone else has caused us and to give them a chance to make amends than it is to forgive ourselves and try again.
In reality, we can become our harshest judges. We criticize ourselves when we make mistakes and we label ourselves as incapable when we fail to achieve our goals. In a way, it is an understandable attitude because there is no one better than us to know our limits, but also to know that, if we had really given the maximum, we would have achieved it.
We cannot escape our inner judge. And it is not a negative thing because that voice in our head pushes us to expand our limits and grow. However, sometimes we can be too strict and cross the line between constructive criticism and destructive judgment. When what lies behind our “heavy hand” is habit, blame, inability to indulge ourselves or the unconscious desire to punish ourselves, we have a problem that we need to solve as soon as possible.
It is precisely at this time that many people throw in the towel. They decide that they have lost the battle and that it is pointless to keep trying. Then they can fall into a kind of vital apathy in which they deny the possibility of being happy again or experience pleasure. To avoid these extremes, it is essential to learn to give yourself a second chance at love, work or life.
Why do we deny ourselves a second chance?
1. Because we are too demanding of ourselves
When we set ourselves very ambitious goals, contenting ourselves with less is difficult for us. That is why we feel so bad when we make mistakes and our first reaction is to quit, thinking that we will no longer be able to achieve what we have set out to do. In those cases we put into practice a kind of dichotomous thinking: either we can achive it the first time or never. That kind of reasoning is the main reason why we refuse a second chance and don’t try again.
2. Because we demand too much from the others
Sometimes we set the bar very high, so that no one can jump. When we expect too much from the others, it is easy to end up disappointed. If we feed unrealistic expectations of the relationships we establish and demand a lot from the others, we are likely to end up being faced with reality. So we believe that the problem are the others and we close ourselves to establishing new relationships, denying ourselves the possibility of being happy through them.
3. Because we anchor ourselves to the past
There are people who do not want to look to the future because they feel comfortable in the past, even though they are aware that it no longer exists. These people are afraid to get out of their comfort zone and, for different reasons, prefer to live in the world of their memories. They believe that the present or the future does not hold anything as rewarding or exciting as what they have experienced in the past. That is why they refuse a second chance.
4. Because we think we don’t deserve it
Some people allow a mistake to determine their image of themselves. When they label themselves as “losers” they think they don’t deserve good things, so they don’t even try to look for a second chance. These are generally people with damaged self-esteem and a poor self-image that prevents them from fighting for what they want.
5. Because we are scared to fail again
In many cases, giving yourself a second chance means turning the page and moving on, but that prospect can be scary for some people. If we have been hurt in the past, giving ourselves a second chance at love will make us vulnerable again. If we have failed in a professional project, embarking on a similar path again implies the possibility of failing again. Sometimes that fear is so great that it just paralyzes us.
The 5 keys to give yourself a second chance
We are not always aware that the biggest obstacle to being happy again is ourselves. Our mind is complex and often sets traps for us that we easily fall into. However, there are three fairly universal steps to giving yourself a second chance:
1. Don’t be in a rush to heal. The world will not end tomorrow, do not try to heal the wound by putting a patch because in the long run the remedy will be worse than the disease. Take your time to heal and start over again.Emotional wounds don’t heal so easily, so you don’t need to be in a rush to look to the future. Just be sure to put the broken pieces back together. Go at your own pace, but be sure to take small steps toward healing so you don’t get stuck in the past.
2. Open yourself to opportunities. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is closing ourselves off from opportunities. Sometimes where we least expect it, a surprise awaits us that can change our life, or at least part of it. Make sure that blow doesn’t take away your desire to discover and explore. Be open to interesting people and proposals. So when a good occasion knocks on your door, you will be prepared to take advantage of it and give yourself a second chance.
3. Learn from mistakes. You made a mistake? Don’t worry, reflect on the decisions that led you to that point and try to take a different path next time. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and do better next time. Experiences can make us wiser and more resilient, as long as we learn from them. After all, people are not measured by their falls but by their strength to get up.
4. Don’t let failure limit you. Failures can be painful blows that are hard to assume.No doubt. However, the true failure is not that of a professional project or a love relationship but rather letting that setback determine our life forever. We are people in continuous transformation, we evolve and learn, so there is no reason to think that what went wrong yesterday, today will not turn out right.
5. Integrate the experience into your life story. A study carried out at Haverford College confirmed that to give yourself a second chance after a painful or difficult experience, two factors must come together. First, we need to make sense of what happened and, second, we need to reach a positive and consistent resolution. This “Implies recognizing the negative emotions of the past and connecting them with the development of new ways of experiencing positive emotions in the present”, as these psychologists explain. This means that it is not about forgetting about the experience, but about finding a positive meaning to integrate it into our life story.
Why is it good to give a second chance?
Second chances are great times to achieve what we resisted the first time. After a defeat or failure, we can learn from what we did wrong to correct it and make it better. We can realize the things we fail on and the strengths we need to work on.
It is also good to give a second chance at interpersonal level. It involves giving confidence to that other person and believing that change is possible. It also involves being able to forgive and let go of resentment. In the long run, these relationships can even become stronger and more satisfying.
When is it not worth it?
However, it is not always good to give a second chance. There are circumstances where it’s just not worth it or it could be a sign of stubbornness or even masochism. Therefore, think twice before giving a second chance when:
• The project has ceased to interest you or has lost its reason for being
• You don’t think the other person can change
• There is a systematic failure pattern over time
• You have not matured enough to try again
• You are not willing to commit 100% and taking the risks is not worth it
Pals, J. L. (2006) Authoring a Second Chance in Life: Emotion and Transformational Processing Within Narrative Identity. Research in Human Development; 3(2-3) 101-120.
Giles, J. (1990) Second Chance, Second Self? Gender and Education; 2(3): 357-361.
Lalljee, M. et. Al. (1989) Confidence and Control: a Psychological Perspective on the Impact of ‘Second Chance to Learn’. Studies in the Education of Adults; 21(1): 20-28.