How To Forgive Yourself For Hurting Someone Unintentionally

how to forgive yourself
How To Forgive Yourself

Forgiveness is something we know we should always do, and we think it’s something we can easily do, but we don’t seem to know how we’re supposed to forgive others, especially ourselves.

You have forgiven others for the many hurts they did to you. But whenever it came to your self, you held yourself to ransom every single time, instead of forgiving yourself.

You hurt someone in the remote past. And you have regretted it ever since. But you can’t bring yourself to let go of that guilt. Even when you know forgiving yourself for that sin will make you feel free and light, it just doesn’t seem to come by. Why?

Why It Is Difficult To Forgive Yourself

When it comes to forgiveness, you turn to think of someone having done a mean thing that harmed you or hurt your feelings. And you allow yourself to let that pass and forgive them.

But you find it no less than a battle to forgive yourself for the wrongs or hurts you caused others, no matter how small the sin.

Experiencing the constant pain of your past faults is devastating. But then, why is the process of learning to forgive yourself so hard?

Perhaps it’s easier to forgive others because they don’t have a home in your head. But you do. And you keep re-reading that bleak self-judgment every time the memory of that old sin of yours resurfaces.

In some probability, even they might have forgiven you for the hurt you gave them, but you still can’t acquit yourself.

Your pain becomes more harrowing when you start to agonize over what you could have done differently to prevent it. You think and think, “What were my other options so that I could not hurt them?”

And this overthinking often spills over to you beginning to question every other life decision you ever made, big or small, and feel those too were plain wrong.

Do you see where the memory of that horrific turn of events is taking you? You might even start to believe all your mistakes were deliberate, and now it’s too late to forgive yourself for a wasted life.

You often wonder, only if you could have forgiven yourself for the hurt you gave others, you could have made a fresh start. But you find it difficult. And the resulting stream of self-hate may 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
Forgiveness means letting go of the past. — Gerald Jampolsky Click To Tweet

7 Steps To Forgive Yourself For Hurting Someone

We spend hours going through the hurtful things we said or did to someone in the past, from when we were a toddler until just last month. We keep playing the scenes over and over, never letting them go.

We do those mentally painful things because we haven’t learned how we could forgive ourselves.

Honestly, even we know how forgiving ourselves can lift us out of that emotional dark pit and start us out on a new journey. If we only knew how to forgive ourselves and wipe the slate clean, we could have had a shot at that new life full of exciting possibilities.

The coaches and counselors have found out a set of steps to help us forgive ourselves. It’s from their collective experience that we bring these seven steps for your benefit.

So, here are seven effective steps to forgive yourself:

Step #1. Accept Your Emotions

If you feel guilty, accept it. If you feel ashamed, admit it. If you feel angry, acknowledge 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.

Step #2. Analyze The Mistake

Remember your mistake, and then write down all the positive learning experiences you gained from it.

When begin analyzing the mistake, focus on finding out 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.

Step #3. Choose A Good Day

Make an appointment with yourself for a day when you’ll be free of any heavy responsibilities. Assign at least an hour to it.

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.

Step #4. Have A Deep Talk With Self

Start a conversation with yourself. Go over in detail about why you need to forgive yourself. Remember, it’s easier to forgive a person when you love and care about them.

So, start with self-love. And you know what, love heals.

So, be that 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 will 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

One crucial part of any conversation is listening. So, listen to your neglected self with patience and without interruptions.

Step #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.

Give your inner critic a respectful name to call. 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 together ahead on this.

You validated them, and now you need their help in validating your process of forgiving yourself. Find an ally in your inner critic by talking to them with compassion and kindness.

Step #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. Release yourself by writing it down. Put in down in ink that you have forgiven yourself for that past mistake, once and for all.

Writing it down doesn’t mean you are condoning the act. When you forgive yourself, it means you are releasing yourself. Then on, you’re no more in the clutch of the dark feelings associated with the act.

Step #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 regretful 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 put sincere efforts to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. You have retained all the learning from it, and so you could release the rest of it.

You could even write in your journal about the specific things the failed relationship taught you. It would show the way forward about how you could better engage with people in your future life.

So spend a while taking stock of who you have become now, and how you have grown from that particular experience.

And now, go out and celebrate your newfound freedom. Bask in the tranquility of self-forgiveness. Talk yourself into the positive side of it all.

how can you forgive yourself
Self-Forgiveness: 7 Proven Useful Steps

Summary: 7 Steps To Forgive Yourself

  1. Accept your emotions: Once you accept the feelings, forgiving gets easy.
  2. Analyze the mistake: Analyze the mistake in terms of what you learnt.
  3. Choose a good day: A day free of distractions will keep your energies up.
  4. Have a deep talk with self: Listen to your neglected self with patience.
  5. Validate your inner critic: Give a great name to the voice in your head.
  6. Forgive as you would a friend: Treat yourself as your best loved friend.
  7. Celebrate the newfound freedom: Let go. A mistake doesn’t define you.

Three More Tips To Self-Forgiveness

Here are 3 quick and practical tips to forgive yourself and let those remorseful feelings go:

1. Re-imagine

The first trick is to re-imagine the whole situation.

Now, you might know that when you visualize yourself doing something, your brain thinks it is the same as you are doing it in the real world. It doesn’t understand the difference.

So we will use this scientifically-proven information to our advantage when it comes to forgiving ourselves and letting go of past faults.

So, do this: Imagine how you’d re-do the entire experience.

Once you’ve re-imagined it, believe in it. And then journal about what you learned from that disturbing or embarrassing experience. Doing this not only shows us you’ve learned from it and moved on, but also that you’ll do better the next time.

Since the brain can’t tell the difference, when you imagine a new outcome, your brain lets it go as any other random memory.

So next time the memories of mistakes you’ve done in the past crop up out of nowhere, ready to ruin your day, try to re-imagine not saying those hurtful words, or not doing that upsetting thing.

2. Apologize

The second tip is to say Sorry and repair the connection.

Often, once you have at least tried to make some amends, you can stop the struggle to forgive yourself and move ahead.

Otherwise, you keep replaying the last fight you had with someone and injuring yourself every time with its retelling.

So if it’s safe to re-engage with someone you have wronged, and consider trying to apologize for the hurt you caused them.

And as always, it’s best to take ample time to organize what words to use and how to say those precisely. You might even practice saying them aloud before you meet them.

That way, you could imagine what they might say in response and rework your answers. So that when you go to repair the connection, you don’t find yourself making it even worse.

3. “Stop!”

The third tip is to stop your train of thoughts.

If you find yourself going back to that one occasion when you did a terrible thing, and wince in pain again and again for the hurt you caused, here’s the solution. Just pack-up and toss off that annoying thought right at the inception. This way, you stop the negative train of thoughts from running all over your mind.

It is easy. Just say to yourself, loudly, or even silently, “Stop!”

When your mind wanders back to that negative situation or hurtful time, don’t let it linger. Just say “Stop” and shut it down.

There are some other ways to stop our thoughts from getting us into troubling feelings. One of them is to force your mind into thinking a pleasant or funny memory.

Whatever the happy memory is, try to use all your five senses to re-tell yourself the entire story. Most often, by the time we process that memory through our five senses, we have already ourselves pushed away from the negative memory.

Another way is to notice your thoughts. That is, you note how your mind is wandering into that hurtful space again, and tell yourself, “Now my mind is trying to pull me back in there and make me feel bad, but I do not want to go there.”

Often, just knowing what is happening, and recognizing the pattern, can stop it from taking wings.

Why Is Forgiveness Important

Forgiveness is important because it is a healing process that releases us from the stress of carrying the negative emotions and restores our emotional balance.

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.

And all these benefits of forgiveness is ours to own when we learn the art of self-forgiveness.

Self-forgiveness in true essence means saying:

  • I admit I did a wrong thing to someone.
  • I will remember not to repeat the act.
  • I forgive myself and let go of my guilt.

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:

Forgive Yourself for Your Mistakes
Douglas Bloch on Self-forgiveness

Final Words

We know forgiving ourselves can sometimes be so much harder than forgiving somebody else. But it’s not impossible.

  • 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.

One fast-and-simple advice: Re-brand your mistake as a Learning Experience.

• Are you afraid to love yourself — then find out how to love yourself without feeling guilty!

• • •

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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