Listen, we’ve all done dumb stuff as kids that makes us cringe just thinking back on it all these years later. I’m talking epic fails like crashing your bike through the neighbor’s fence or accidentally lighting the curtains on fire while playing with matches. At the time, it felt like the end of the world, but now we can look back and laugh.

However, some childhood blunders can leave deeper scars if we continue beating ourselves up over them. I’ve been there, too. The guilt and shame over past mistakes kept me stuck for years. But through some deep personal work, I’ve learned how to forgive myself and finally move on. In this post, I’ll share the steps that helped me make peace with my inner child, so you can stop punishing yourself and reclaim your joy. Let’s dive in!

How to Forgive Yourself for Childhood Mistakes

Acknowledge them, but remember you were a kid, learning the ropes. Seek the lesson within the mistake, maybe needing an apology or a different choice next time. Be kind to yourself; you wouldn’t judge a friend so harshly. Release the guilt, forgive yourself, and focus on who you are today. Your past doesn’t define you!

Letting go of childhood mistakes can be a weight off your shoulders. Here’s how to forgive yourself and move forward:

1. Understand Why You’re Being Hard on Yourself

Understand Why You're Being Hard on Yourself
Understand Why You’re Being Hard on Yourself

Growing up, we all did things we regret. As kids, we were learning how to navigate the world and made mistakes. Looking back now, I realize I was overly harsh on myself for slip-ups that were normal parts of childhood.

Why do we judge our younger selves so critically? Often, it’s because we’ve matured and gained life experiences that our childhood selves lacked. We see now how we could have handled situations better. But you can’t change the past; you can only learn from it.

Rather than beating yourself up over things you did as a kid, try showing yourself some compassion. Your younger self was doing their best with the knowledge and abilities they had at the time. Did anyone get seriously hurt? Probably not. Kids mess up—it’s part of growing up.

Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Holding onto regret and self-blame for childhood mistakes serves no useful purpose and only makes you feel bad in the present. Make peace with your inner child and accept them, flaws and all. They were learning and growing, just like you still are today. Let go of unrealistic expectations of your childhood self and embrace them with empathy and understanding.

When memories of youthful blunders arise, remind yourself that you did the best you could as a kid. Be kind to your younger self; they deserve your forgiveness and compassion. Let the past remain in the past; you have so much wonderful life ahead of you, so don’t waste another moment judging yourself for things that happened long ago.

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2. Release Shame and Guilt Around Your Past Mistakes

We all did silly things as kids that make us cringe now as adults. I know I have a few moments from childhood that I wish I could erase from my memory. The truth is, we were all learning and growing, and we didn’t always make the best choices.    Forgive yourself for not knowing better. You were just a child. Your brain wasn’t fully developed, and you lacked the life experience to always do the right thing.

Give your younger self some grace. Those mistakes do not define who you are now.Let go of the shame and guilt. Holding onto negative feelings about the past will only make you feel bad in the present and limit your future happiness.

Make the choice to forgive yourself, accept what happened, and move on from it. Say it out loud: “I forgive myself for accepting what happened and am ready to let go of the shame and guilt.” Hearing yourself say the words can be very powerful.   Focus on the lessons.

While the specifics of what you did may haunt you, there were valuable lessons in those experiences. What did you learn? How did those lessons shape who you are today? Finding meaning in the mistakes can help you make peace with them.

You are not the same person you were as a child. You’ve grown and changed, and you now have the wisdom to make better choices. The past is done, so be gentle with yourself and make the choice to forgive yourself for being an imperfect kid. You deserve to be happy and live free of regret. Let go of the past and embrace who you are now.

3. Cultivate Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness

Cultivate Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness
Cultivate Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness

Forgiving yourself for past mistakes and imperfections is a journey. As a child, I often felt like I wasn’t “good enough” in some way. Whether it was low self-esteem from being overweight or awkward or believing I was somehow unlovable because of my quirks and faults, I carried a lot of negative self-judgment into my teen and adult years.

Looking back now through the lens of mindfulness and self-compassion, I can see how hard I was on myself. The first step to self-forgiveness is recognizing those old patterns of negative self-talk and criticism. When those thoughts come up now, I try to gently challenge them with more compassionate responses, like “I was just a child. All children make mistakes and have things they need to learn.” Practicing mindfulness and meditation has helped strengthen my ability to observe those thoughts without judgment.

Another helpful technique is to look at photos of yourself as a child and speak to that inner child with kindness and compassion. Say things like “I love you, I accept you as you were, and I forgive you.” Give your younger self the message you needed to hear back then. This can be a profoundly healing experience, helping to release old feelings of shame and self-blame.

Learn to accept yourself as the imperfect human you are. No one is without fault or flaw, and children are especially prone to messing up as they learn how to navigate the world. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you made and the imperfections you think you have. You are a product of your experiences, biology, environment, and circumstances-all of which were outside of your control. Let go of unrealistic expectations of what you “should” have been and embrace who you are now, imperfections and all.

With practice and patience, you can cultivate self-compassion and learn to forgive yourself for being an imperfect child. By speaking to yourself with kindness, accepting your humanity, and releasing unrealistic expectations, you open the door to greater peace and happiness. Let go of the past and enjoy who you are now. You deserve that.

4. Learn to Separate Your Child Self From Your Adult Self

As a kid, I didn’t have the life experience and maturity to always make the best choices. My childhood brain was still developing, and I was learning how to navigate relationships and cope with difficult emotions. The mistakes I made back then do not define who I am today.

To forgive myself, I have to remember that I’m not that same child anymore. I’ve grown into an adult with the ability to reflect, learn and do better. The person I was is not the person I am now. My childhood blunders were a natural part of learning and growing up.

Focus on how you’ve grown. Looking at the ways I’ve matured and developed healthier coping skills helps me let go of past regrets. For example, as a child, I had trouble controlling my anger and would often lash out at friends and family. Now I’ve learned better ways to manage anger and resolve conflicts. My emotional intelligence and patience have increased tremendously.

Comparing my child self to my adult self makes me realize that I deserve to move on from youthful mistakes. Beating myself up over things that happened so long ago is pointless and unproductive. The only thing that matters is how I choose to live today.

Forgive Yourself for Not Knowing Better. As children, we simply don’t have the life experiences and wisdom that come with age. Our brains are still developing, and we are learning how to interact with the world. It’s unfair to judge my childhood self for not having the maturity and coping skills that I have now. I forgive myself for not knowing better at the time.

Letting go of past regrets and self-blame is one of the healthiest things you can do. Forgiving yourself for childhood mistakes allows you to nurture self-compassion and channel your energy into creating a better future instead of dwelling in the past. You owe it to yourself and your inner child-to make peace with the past and move forward.

5. Accept That You Did Your Best with What You Knew

Accept That You Did Your Best with What You Knew
Accept That You Did Your Best with What You Knew

As a kid, I didn’t have the life experience and wisdom that I have now as an adult. I made mistakes, had poor judgment at times, and didn’t always make the best choices. But that’s part of growing up and learning. I need to accept that I did the best I could with the knowledge and maturity I had at the time.

I Was Still Learning and Developing. My prefrontal cortex, responsible for reasoning and judgment, was still developing until my mid-20s.1 didn’t have a full grasp of consequences or the ability to delay gratification that comes with age. While some decisions I made were short-sighted or foolish, I was still learning how to navigate relationships and challenging life situations. I have to cut myself some slack.

My Choices Were Limited By My Circumstances. The options and control I had over my life as a child were limited. I was heavily influenced by my environment and the adults around me. If I made poor choices, it may have been due to a lack of better options or role models. I did what I could with the hand I was dealt.

I Can’t Change the Past. As much as I may regret some of my actions as a kid, I can’t change what happened. I have to make peace with my past and forgive myself for any mistakes or blunders, even the cringeworthy ones that still make me wince. Staying stuck in old guilt and regret won’t undo the past and will only make me miserable in the present.

While it can be hard to forgive myself for childhood mistakes, doing so is necessary to move on from the past. I did the best I could at the time, and now I choose to be kind to my childhood self. The past is behind me, and I can build a better future.

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6. Focus on How Far You’ve Come Since Then

Looking back, I can’t believe some of the silly things I did as a kid. At the time, those moments felt like the end of the world, but now I can see them for what they were-a normal part of growing up. The truth is, we all have embarrassing blunders and missteps in our past. The key is learning from them and then letting them go.

When I start to cringe at the memory of something awkward or foolish I did years ago, I try to remind myself of how much I’ve grown since that time. The person I was then isn’t the person I am now. I have so much more life experience, wisdom, and perspective now. Those old mistakes seem trivial in comparison to the challenges I’ve faced and overcome as an adult.

I’m Not Defined By My Past. The dumb thing I said or did when I was 12 doesn’t define who I am today. I refuse to let some fleeting moment from decades ago have power over me or make me feel bad about myself. My worth isn’t defined by any one action, especially not one from my childhood. I am the sum total of all my experiences, choices, and attributes-the good and the bad.

When childhood embarrassments creep into your mind, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. See how much you’ve evolved and matured. Be proud of the progress you’ve made, rather than ashamed of who you used to be. Your past may shape you, but it doesn’t define you. Focus on loving who you are now-that’s what really matters.

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7. Let Go of Regret – It Can’t Change the Past

Let Go of Regret - It Can't Change the Past
Let Go of Regret – It Can’t Change the Past

Looking back, I certainly made my fair share of mistakes as a kid. Some were silly, like the time I put a potato in the microwave just to see what would happen (spoiler: it exploded). Others were more serious, like hurting a friend’s feelings or telling a lie to get out of trouble. At the time, I didn’t fully grasp the impact of my actions. Now as an adult, it’s easy to feel regret over the dumb things I did in my youth.

Forgive your younger self. The first step to letting go of regret over childhood blunders is to forgive my younger self. That kid didn’t know any better-she was just learning and testing the waters of life. Beating myself up now wont change the past; it will only make me feel bad in the present. I have to accept that I grew and learned from those experiences. My younger self deserves the same compassion I would show a close friend.

While I can’t take back the things I did, I can use them as learning experiences. Those potato-nuking moments taught me to think before I act, consider the consequences, and not give in to curiosity just because “I wonder what will happen if…” The social missteps showed me how my words and actions affect others, even if I don’t mean to cause harm. I’m a wiser and kinder person today because of the lessons I learned back then.

Dwelling on childhood regrets only makes me feel stuck in the past instead of appreciating how far I’ve come. The present moment is where I want to focus my energy. I can use the wisdom I’ve gained to build better relationships, make a positive difference, and avoid repeating those same mistakes. Letting go of regret for good means accepting that the past is done, and today is a new opportunity to do and be better.

My childhood blunders shaped who I am, but they don’t define me. I get to write the rest of my story from this point onward.

8. Forgive Others Who May Have Contributed

When I was a kid, I made a lot of silly mistakes and blunders that still make me cringe to think about today. But as easy as it is to beat myself up over these childhood faux pas, it’s important to remember that I wasn’t the only one responsible. My parents, teachers, and other adults in my life certainly played a role as well.

To truly forgive myself, I have to forgive them too. My parents weren’t perfect-they were still learning how to raise kids and made plenty of mistakes of their own. My teachers had whole classrooms of rambunctious children to wrangle and couldn’t always give me the attention or guidance I needed. Other adults, like coaches, babysitters or counselors, were also still figuring things out and prone to messing up from time to time.

No one is flawless, and the adults from my childhood were no exception. Recognizing this has helped me let go of resentment over their imperfections and shortcomings where I was concerned. I can now understand they were doing the best they could with the knowledge and life experiences they had at the time.

Forgiving others also means accepting that I couldn’t control their actions-I could only control my reactions and responses. By focusing on myself and how I can grow from my experiences instead of blaming people from the past, I’m able to make peace with who I was as a child and become a healthier, happier adult. This is an ongoing process, but an important step is forgiving the fallible adults who helped shape me during those early years.

Letting go of blame and resentment is liberating. I realize now that every stumble and mistake along the way helped make me who I am. And by forgiving myself and others for being imperfectly human, I can appreciate life’s journey instead of regretting how I got here. Focusing on forgiveness and growth is the path to self-acceptance and inner peace.

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Why You Should Forgive Yourself for Childhood Blunders

As a kid, I made my fair share of mistakes. Some were silly, like the time I accidentally smashed my dad’s car window with a baseball, and some were more serious, like bullying a classmate. Looking back now, I realize I was just a child finding my way in the world. While the guilt and regret still creep in at times, I’ve learned to forgive myself for those youthful errors.

Here are a few reasons why you should absolve yourself of childhood blunders:

  1. Everyone makes mistakes as a kid. We were all learning how to navigate relationships, control our emotions, and understand consequences. Our brains were still developing, so we lacked judgment. and impulse control. If your mistake didn’t seriously harm someone else, it’s probably quite common and forgivable.
  2. You’ve grown since then. The person you are now is not the same as that child. You have life experiences, maturity, and wisdom that you lacked back then. Don’t judge your current self by the actions of your childhood self.
  3. Dwelling on the past won’t change it. While it’s important to acknowledge your mistakes, constantly berating yourself over things you can’t change is pointless and unproductive. Learn from your errors and work on being a better person going forward.
  4. Forgiving yourself will allow you to find peace. Letting go of guilt and self-blame is liberating. It will reduce negative thoughts, improve your self-esteem, and allow you to focus on the present rather than the past. You deserve to forgive yourself.

Looking back at the silly and thoughtless things I did as a child always makes me cringe. But by forgiving myself for those youthful blunders, I’ve been able to accept my imperfections, learn from my mistakes, and become a happier and healthier person. I encourage you to do the same—absolve yourself and look toward the future instead of the past. Your childhood self deserves your compassion.

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Final Thought

Childhood is a time of immense growth and learning, and we all make mistakes along the way. The important thing is that we learn from those mistakes and resolve to be better people moving forward. Holding on to guilt and shame over youthful errors serves no one. So forgive yourself, learn the lessons life has taught you, and focus your energy on being the best version of yourself today. That’s the final thought worth holding on to.


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