Forgiving yourself is a process. Sadly, it cannot happen overnight. It takes effort. As someone who has been through faith transition, heartbreak, divorce, depression, and anxiety, these steps have helped me to take back my power and step into my full potential.
Self compassion & kindness
If your first response to a negative situation is to criticize yourself, it’s time to show yourself some kindness and compassion. The only way to begin the journey to forgiveness is to be kind and compassionate with yourself.
This takes time, patience, and a reminder to yourself that you’re worthy of forgiveness.
Feel your emotions
One of the first steps in forgiving yourself is to focus on your emotions. Give yourself permission to recognize and accept the feelings that have been triggered in you and get curious about what you are feeling without judging the feeling as good or bad. Before you can move forward, it is important to acknowledge and process your emotions. You must feel it to heal it.
The key in forgiving yourself and seeing how each experience is an opportunity for growth, is to ask yourself, “How is this happening for me instead of to me?” Think of each “mistake” as a learning experience. This will help you move forward faster and more consistently in the future.Remember, you did the best you could with the knowledge and tools you had.
Acknowledge your mistake by writing it down
When you make a mistake or act in a way that you feel like, “I should have known better,” take a moment to pause and write it down. When you acknowledge what you learned from the mistake, you give a voice to the thoughts in your head and the emotions in your heart. This will allow you to free yourself from some of the burdens. When you put pen to paper and write it down, you imprint in your mind what you learned.
If you make a mistake and have a hard time putting it out of your mind, ask yourself, “How is thinking about this helping me? Am I punishing myself or am I truly being productive in my thoughts?” If you find yourself becoming too consumed with your mistake, give yourself permission to press pause. Tell yourself you are putting this aside for now and will return to it if and when it will benefit you. Remember to take your time and act from a place of self love.
Conversing with your inner critic
We are our own worst critics. Notice when you are being self-critical and write it down. Journaling can help you understand your inner critic and develop self-compassion. Write out a “conversation” between you and your inner critic. This can help you identify thought patterns that are sabotaging your ability to forgive yourself.
Find a journal and write down a list of the qualities you like about yourself, including your strengths and skills. This can help boost your self love when you’re feeling down about a mistake you made. We all make mistakes. It is the human experience. Show yourself some grace and be kind to yourself.
Get clear about what you want
If the mistake you made hurt another person, determine the best course of action. Do you want to talk to this person and apologize? Is it important to reconcile with them and make amends?
If you’re on the fence about what to do, you might want to consider making amends. This goes beyond saying sorry to a person. A heartfelt apology is the solution. The other person may or may not forgive you but at least you will feel better for apologizing. Forgiving ourselves for pain we may have caused to another person is easier if we first make amends.
Take your own advice
Oftentimes, it’s easier to tell someone else what to do than to take our own advice. What would you tell a friend if they were sharing this mistake they made with you? Now take your own advice. Say a prayer or call on your spiritual support and take action.
Quiet your mind
Our brains can be our greatest asset or enemy. It’s human nature to spend time and energy replaying our mistakes. While some processing is important, going over what happened again and again won’t allow you to take the proper steps to forgive yourself.
When you catch yourself playing the “I’m a horrible person” tape, stop yourself and focus on one positive action step. For example, instead of replaying the tape, take three deep breaths or go for a walk.
Interrupting the thought pattern can help you move away from the negative experience and reduce stress and anxiety.