We are often told we shouldn’t hold grudges against others, that it’s best to forgive and move on. Forgiveness isn’t always easy to give to others, and even harder to give to ourselves. Mistakes or bad decisions in life are inevitable, and yes, we all make them. Forgiveness is a choice we make, and despite whatever has happened it is a choice you should always make for yourself.
Self-forgiveness is hard. Over ten years ago, I did a very cruel thing to a close friend of mine. Surprisingly, she actually forgave me rather quickly. I’ve always thought highly of her for that reason, for being able to forgive my actions so quickly took incredible kindness. Although she forgave me in a short time, I was not able to forgive myself so easily. Something about my character and how I viewed myself had changed, I couldn’t quite recognize myself. Eventually I came to the point where I grew tired of all the shame and guilt I carried around because of it. I realized I had to accept what I had done. Accepting my actions didn’t mean I condoned them or justified them. It meant I agreed to leave it in the past and know going forward I wouldn’t make that same mistake again. It meant striving to learn from the experience and working to be a better person. In accepting these things, I was able to forgive myself and work on becoming what I believed to be a better version of myself.
You can forgive yourself too. You can make that choice and learn from the experience, allowing it to help you grow. If you’re not sure where to start or how, that’s OK. Here are some tips to help start the process:
- Acknowledge the mistake or whatever you did that you believe needs forgiveness for out loud, acknowledge what happened
- Take responsibility for your actions as necessary
- Allow yourself to feel and accept whatever emotions may arise from it, however hard it may be
- Look at the situation as a learning experience and identify what you would do differently next time
- Apologize if necessary
- Keep your inner critic in check by combating it with kind words about yourself, everyone makes mistakes
- Most importantly, show yourself kindness and compassion through it all no matter what
Tell yourself, and know, that you are worthy of forgiveness. Think about what advice you would give to a friend in your position, then take that advice yourself. If you find you are lingering on the situation and having negative feelings associated with it, then change up what you are doing to interrupt that negative thought pattern. Clear your head and change your frame of mind.
Studies on self-forgiveness have shown that it can lead to lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. It also affects our relationships with those around us, contributing to overall healthier and happier relationships. And ultimately, the act of self-forgiveness is freeing. We free ourselves from shame, guilt, anger, sadness or anything else and make room for kindness, compassion, and understanding. We allow ourselves to let go in a healthy way and move forward. Choose this for yourself. Choose forgiveness.