Instead of forgiving yourself, you find yourself holding your guilty self ransom every time that old memory of a mistake resurfaces.
Experiencing the constant pain of your past faults is devastating.
Your pain only becomes more excruciating when you agonize over what you could have done differently to prevent that horrific turn of events.
This often spills over to you beginning to question every life decision you ever made, big or small, and feel all those were plain wrong.
You might even to start to believe all your mistakes were deliberate, and now it’s too late to forgive yourself for a wasted life.
And this might even send you tail-spinning into an abyss of depression.
I think the first step is to understand that forgiveness does not exonerate the perpetrator. Forgiveness liberates the victim. It’s a gift you give yourself.— T. D. Jakes
You often wonder, only if you could have forgiven your past mistakes, you could have made a fresh start.
Honestly, even you know forgiving yourself can lift you out of the emotional dark pit and start you out on a new journey. A new journey full of exciting possibilities.
But how can you start the process of self-forgiveness?
If you only knew how, with some conscious effort, you could forgive yourself any day and wipe the slate clean.
Forgiveness is a healing process that restores your emotional balance and releases you from carrying the stress of negative emotions.
Forgiveness buffers the negative effects of lifetime stress severity on mental health. A study found people who scored high on the Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS) had better mental health.
A research using fMRi brain scans showed forgiveness can even change the way our brain functions.
Self-Forgiveness: How To Forgive Yourself In 7 Steps
Although self-forgiveness is not a one-size-fits-all process, here are seven effective and helpful steps to forgive yourself:
- Accept your emotions
- Analyze the mistake
- Choose a good day
- Have a deep talk with self
- Validate your inner critic
- Forgive as you would a friend
- Celebrate the newfound freedom
1. Accept Your Emotions
If you feel guilty, accept it. If you feel ashamed, accept it. If you feel angry, accept it.
Humans make mistakes, and many of those are egregiously stupid, but that’s also one of the ways to learn. Okay, it may not be the best way to learn (by the way, the best way is to learn from other’s mistakes), but it is how you navigate around life.
So, be frank to yourself that you blew it. Once you accept and acknowledge it, the process of forgiving gets easier.
And don’t silence your inner critic. Instead, listen patiently to what it says about you. Let it make you feel whatever it wants to. Then note down the emotions your inner critic gave you.
2. Analyze The Mistake
Remember your mistake and then write down all the positive learning experience you gained of it.
It will begin with analyzing the mistake, especially focusing on how much of it was under your control. You may realize you did not have complete control over it at that time. And now that you see it in your hindsight, with that learning you know how you would prevent it from happening in the future.
Once you have analyzed your mistake, let it brew over in your mind for a few days. Every time it comes to your mind, make yourself remember the learning you received from it.
3. Choose A Good Day
Make an appointment with yourself for a day when you’ll be free of any heavy responsibilities. Slot at least an hour.
Find a place where you could sit with yourself without getting interrupted. Get something to eat or drink. Carry your diary or journal.
And begin by checking out of your daily worries and calming your mind. You could spend a few minutes deep breathing, and thereby activating your relaxation phase via the vagus nerve.
4. Have A Deep Talk With Self
Start a conversation with yourself, going over why you need to forgive yourself. It’s easy to forgive someone when you love them, and care about them.
You know what, love heals. So, be that special person to yourself that you love. Here’s how to love yourself without guilt?
Make it a point to carry over your journal. Write down the benefits of freedom from negative emotions you’ll have after you have forgiven yourself.
You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, “I forgive. I’m finished with it.”— Maya Angelou
5. Validate Your Inner Critic
You already have a fair idea of what your inner critic thinks about it, as you noted them down in the first step.
For respect, give your inner critic a great name to call with. Now call it by their name and assure it you have listened to them carefully, and taken their criticism into account.
And tell them now is the time to go ahead on this together. You validated them, and now you need them help in validating your process of forgiving yourself.
Find an ally in your inner critic by talking to them with compassion and kindness.
6. Forgive As You Would A Friend
Treat yourself as your best loved friend, and forgive yourself without judgment.
Forgive yourself by writing it down. Put in down in ink that you have forgiven yourself for that past mistake, and releasing yourself from all the negative emotions you have been been living with all these years because of it.
Write it down it does not mean you are condoning the act. Instead, your forgiving yourself means you are releasing yourself from the clutch of the dark feelings associated with the act.
7. Celebrate The Newfound Freedom
When you forgive yourself and release yourself from the burden of all those negative emotions you have been carrying around for ages, you might feel you have lost a part of yourself.
But what’s the point of being wistful about a mistake you made all those years back? Why feel sad at letting that part of you go?
You no more need that part of you, so let it go. Especially now, when you’re putting in sincere efforts to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. You have retained all the learning from it, so you could release the rest of it.
And now, go out and celebrate your newfound freedom. Bask in the tranquility of self-forgiveness.
In the video below, author and depression counselor Douglas Bloch talks of the three reasons why those who suffer from depression need to forgive themselves for their mistakes:
Forgiveness in true essence means saying:
- I admit a wrong was done.
- I’ll remember not to repeat it.
- I forgive and un-guilt myself for it.
You accepted you made mistakes just like any human could have in your situation. But this doesn’t mean you’re rationalizing your mistake.
You have forgiven yourself. But this doesn’t mean you have let yourself off the hook for similar acts in future.
You have forgiven yourself to free yourself of the negative burden. And this means you’re ready to embark on a new journey of life.
• Are you afraid to love yourself — then find out how to love yourself without feeling guilty!
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Author Bio: Sandip Roy is psychology writer, happiness researcher, and medical doctor. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related topics.
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