We all make mistakes–that’s what makes us human. While this is a reality we all face, we should all realize we can learn a great deal from our faults and failures. I make mistakes every day, but those that stick out most to me are the ones I made when I first became interested in politics. They are the mistakes I learned most from, and I believe that many others can learn from, as well.

1. Abusing social media

Politics aside, this is something all of us are guilty of in this age of technology. Even without meaning it, the things we tweet and post can come with a negative connotation. We cannot hear an opposing person’s tone through a screen, so something that was meant to be snarky can come off as just plain rude. Not to mention the ability to “subtweet” others, including our friends, or the ability to simply block people if we don’t like them.

Mix this with politics and it can quickly become a heated, all-caps shouting match. When you don’t know someone, and you’re behind a keyboard, it becomes easier to say the things that you’re thinking in your head no matter how negative they are. While I personally never yell profanities at people on social media or in real life, I did find myself saying things that I normally wouldn’t via Twitter. When I first got involved in politics, I was exposed to people that really angered me when they replied with aggressive, horrible comments to my tweets. I didn’t understand how anyone could think the way they did. While this is natural, I wish I would have taken a deep breath before responding. I only added fuel to the fire when I should have responded calmly. Not only would this have made me the bigger person, but it could have also persuaded that person to see my point of view better. As I know now, it is always possible to have a civil discussion with someone on a matter you disagree, and it certainly saves a lot of the unhealthy anger. You can even learn a thing or two.

2. Not knowing all the facts

It’s hard to admit, but I considered myself a liberal before I really became involved in politics. I attribute this to my own ignorance. When I became aware of the political system, I used to think that Republicans were a bunch of “old, white men” that wanted to hurt the lower class. This is what people around me said in the wicked blue state I live in, and I picked it up during the 2012 election when my parents were watching the last presidential debate on television. People I used to follow on Twitter only regurgitated this information for me. But when I actually took the time to learn what each party stands for on my own, I realized that the only issue I agreed with liberals over was the death penalty. This, to me, is a prime example of not being informed, and I really wish I had taken the time to form my own opinions instead of following what everyone else believed in.

3. Ignoring media bias

I generally love Fox News, but I can’t ignore the hatred liberals have for it because of its conservative appeal (despite liberals having many more news agencies that appeal to them). Whenever I used to get into arguments with liberals, I strictly used sites with conservative bias. While it’s hard to find articles without it, bias is very easily detected and can quickly weaken your argument, no matter how factual the article is. I wouldn’t take CNN or Salon seriously, and staunch left-wing Democrats likely are not going to believe The Blaze any more than Fox. Using sources with an objective viewpoint and demographic can really persuade a person’s perspective on an issue.

4. Not turning the other cheek

This mainly ties back into social media. When I first started tweeting about politics, I found myself on Twitter for hours on end, participating in unhealthy debates and defending myself against ill-spirited replies. Looking back, I realize that I have wasted so much time. It’s fun to engage in a discussion every now and then and, as humans, we are prone to defend ourselves if someone is unjustly attacking us because of our worldview. There are times, though, when we must turn the other cheek. It’s something I wish I had done more often. Sometimes we have to put the phone down for a moment or else the urge to respond within the first two seconds will just keep overpowering us. We simply cannot win over every single heart and mind, and therefore it can be better to graciously bid a good day to someone cussing you out than to spend a whole day going back in forth with them.

5. Being a “Closet Republican”

This was me. For a while, I didn’t voice my ideas or principles. My school is full of liberal feminists, so I was afraid of losing my friends or being targeted for it. I remember that one day, I sat silently in physics class while my teacher–yes, my teacher–began attacking Catholicism, and my friends nodded in agreement to whatever he said. Similarly, I once sat a lunch table away from girls who were gossiping about me because of my Twitter. I did nothing about it, and that was a huge mistake. You should never be ashamed of who you are. If your friends can’t separate their friendship with you from a political disagreement, then they aren’t your friends. If they condemn you for your viewpoint, then they don’t deserve to be your friend! I really wish I would have known this before because, now that I’m not afraid to express my opinion, I feel so much more relieved and confident. I know who my real friends are now. In fact, I even ended up making new friends because they share my views.

Mistakes can be embarrassing and hold us back, but we shouldn’t let them. Without the mistakes I made, I wouldn’t be the confident conservative girl that I am today!