How To Forgive Yourself, Even When It Feels Impossible
Forgiveness is a process. I learned this the hard way by holding onto mistakes and destructive behaviours for years without trying to forgive myself. The longer I held onto them, the greater burden they became.
If you’re struggling to practice self-forgiveness, there’s hope. Everyone can do this, even though the process will be different for us all.
For years, I held on to bitterness and anger, which had built up over the years in my close relationships. Only by forgiving myself was I able to experience such incredible freedom from these burdens.
Let go of the burden you’re carrying, so you can learn how to forgive yourself and start to experience freedom in your life.
Here are 10 things to help you forgive yourself, even in the darkest moments. They certainly changed my life.
1. Don’t attach emotions to regrets.
One of my first realizations was that I was attaching emotions to the things that I had regretted doing. I was actually connecting my mistakes to my limiting beliefs.
So, is it any wonder I couldn’t forgive myself for my action because it was really the underlying emotion that needed to be addressed?
For example, if I screamed at my mother, I would feel very guilty afterwards. Trying to forgive me for the screaming was ineffective as I needed to look at the guilt it caused me.
2. Move on from the past.
The past really is the past. And when we can leave it there, we become more open to acceptance. It’s a very healing experience in itself where you stop trying to change situations.
We find it hard to let go of the past because we feel it is really part of us. But remind yourself that, at that very moment, you did the very best you could with the tools you had at the time.
Keep what you have learned from the event, and let go of everything else.
3. Take a look at the relationship you have with yourself.
You can forgive those around you who you love dearly far more easily. So, by loving yourself and being less critical, less harsh, and giving yourself the benefit of the doubt, you can appreciate yourself that bit more.
Putting yourself first, taking care of your needs, creating boundaries, and practising self-care will give you a new positive perspective.
4. Recognize events where you could have done things differently.
It’s a great learning experience to write down how you would do it differently next time.
This affirms to your subconscious mind that you have learned from the situation. And if you had the tools you have now back then, things wouldn’t have worked out as they did.
You can then create a clear visualization in the mind of your new creation. This is how we learn not to repeat mistakes.
5. Don’t look at every past mistake.
Just look at the main ones to forgive yourself. You will identify a pattern. And once you can see the behaviour developing, you can focus on changing that and not just the “one-off” events.
6. Admit your errors.
We are brought up not to make mistakes. And if we do, we get punished. So, naturally, we try and hide from them.
When you can admit to yourself that have taken ownership of that mistake, you realize that you’re human. And that’s how you grow and learn. If you’re making mistakes, you’re stepping out of your comfort zone.
7. Don’t go through this alone.
Start sharing your feelings with someone you trust. You will soon realize that sharing your thoughts will actually stop you from sliding down a path of denial and repression.
8. Apologize to those you’ve wronged.
If you’re struggling to forgive yourself for something you have done to someone else, the best way is to say “sorry” to that person.
Do so face to face, if possible. But if you can’t do that, send a message or an email. Don’t expect a response; just know that you have said: “sorry.”
9. Make it right from this day on.
I can’t go back and change how I behaved towards my family — yelling with such anger at my mom, or being known as the “Fun Police” by my children. But what I can do is be a better parent and daughter right now.
I can’t “make up” for what I did. But I can learn from the past and create a new future.
10. Reflect on how far you’ve come.
Before you close your eyes at bedtime, reflect back over the day and remind yourself of all the things you have been able to do and made a difference, however small — the smile you gave to a stranger, the rubbish you picked up in the park, the dinner you made for your husband, or the person let in front of you in the supermarket queue.
Hold onto these thoughts as you drift off to sleep. Why? Because you really have become one amazing person.
Forgiveness is the very best tool that allows us to face what we have done in the past, acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them, leave them behind, and move on.
It doesn’t mean we excuse what has happened, and it doesn’t mean we forget what has happened. It means we have learned and moved on in a better way.