Becoming self-aware is looking deep into ourselves with honesty and objectivity. Before we’re ready to move into the future and leave the past behind, we need to find a way to resolve any conflict and turmoil that may be lurking in our memories. Where do we begin?

In understanding human beings, the findings of science and studies of spirituality are basically in accord in the belief that we are all one, which is another way of saying that we’re all connected. None of us can live and evolve in total isolation. We’re interdependent. Babies need to be touched and held. Even in adulthood, we thrive in caring environments.

Another premise widely acknowledged in both the scientific and spiritual communities is that we all have a more or less latent anger—a dark side, if you will, especially if our means of survival are threatened. This dark side is alluded to as a shadow effect in The Shadow Effect, Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, and Marianne Williamson, who discuss the inherent duality between darkness and light in human beings.

Have you ever met a perfect person? Always right? Never made a mistake? While some may want to convey this impression, it’s never completely true. So none of us is alone in confronting our past mistakes or shortcomings. Dwelling incessantly in the past is not in our best interests, and blaming others for everything that’s gone wrong in our lives is  destructive,  since it’s a form of denial that we were at least in part responsible. And denial or lack of acceptance of the duality of human nature leads to more pain.

We can call anything negative that’s ever happened a learning experience, which in fact it is, if we take the opportunity to actually learn from it. At the same time, the term learning experience whitewashes all the negativity related to mistakes, faults, failures, and flaws—words that exist for specific reasons in describing human experience. When something negative happens that harms a relationship between two adults, usually both parties are responsible, at least to some extent, for the damage. Finger pointing does nothing to solve the problem. Failures and mistakes are terms we try to avoid, but we’re not free to move on, until we acknowledge them. Even more important, it’s more caring to accept that we’re all connected, needing one another for acceptance and sustenance. The awakening of compassion is a natural result of recognizing our shared humanity, in all its complexity.

The key action we need to take to finding joy in our lives is to forgive others and ourselves for ever being a source of unhappiness or pain. Forgiveness has never been based on worthiness. It’s our acceptance of one another as flawed human beings and an admission of our need to live in a world where we’re not devoured by hatred, especially our own. It’s only when we begin to recognize our own role in creating conflict that we can see clearly that we’re part of a larger picture in which we must live together. Our healthiest, happiest, and most natural way of relating to one another is out of love.

Besides, failure is not a dirty word. Successful people are not afraid to fail. In fact, the most successful among us fail time and time again, in their unyielding efforts to succeed in becoming their best selves. We don’t need to call it failure, but just a step on the path to victory. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If he hadn’t invented the light bulb, we might still be living in the dark.

So when you embark on your amazing trip toward becoming your best version of YOU, show yourself some kindness and compassion, just as you share it with others. It will make all the difference in creating an enjoyable journey for us all.

Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones