If you’re anything like me, you are your own harshest critic and the toughest judge.
It’s not easy to forgive and it’s even harder to forgive yourself when you know you’ve done or said something wrong. The good news is that it can be done and if you follow the tips below, you’ll be well on your way to forgiving yourself.
Self-forgiveness is a process. It does not happen overnight and the process will look different for everyone. But no matter how long it takes, there’s always hope!
Here are 10 steps you can take on that journey to self-forgiveness:
Clarify your ideals and values, as they are right now.
The reason most of us feel guilt or shame for actions done in the past is that those actions are not in alignment with our current ideals or values. Our past wrongs can actually be indicators as to what we hold important. By identifying our ideals and values, we start to get a clearer picture as to “why” we’re hurting over what we’ve done, or what others may have done to us.
Understand that the past is the past.
This seems fairly basic, but when we can really wrap our head around the fact that we can’t undo the past, the past is over and done, those things happened, we open ourselves up to more acceptance. Increased acceptance can lead to the emotional healing we are all seeking.
Create a “do-over.”
Never underestimate the power of a “do-over.” Write down how you would have done things differently if you could go back and do it all over again. In doing so, we affirm that we not only learned from our past mistake but that if we had the skills we have now, back then, we would have done things differently.
Accept you did the best you could at the time.
The way we respond depends on the skills we have, the state of mind we’re in, and how we perceive the situation at that moment. Maybe we didn’t have as much objectivity or acted out of survival or protection mode. Maybe we let stress build up, which put us at a higher risk of responding poorly. Whatever the scenario, cut yourself a break. If you learn from it, it was never in vain.
Act in accordance with your ideals and values.
The best thing you can do for yourself in order to forgive is to start replacing the negative behavior and thoughts with more appropriate ones that are in keeping with your ideals and values. By doing so, you reaffirm to yourself that you can handle situations in the way you want to. This can lead to a sense of pride, which is a huge part of building self-esteem.
Recognize and name your biggest regrets.
When I work with clients on moving on from their past, it can be very overwhelming for them because they see so many regrets. It’s often helpful to put these things into categories because people often only hold on to a handful of patterns. Working on patterns of behavior is often so much more helpful than working on separate instances of regret.
Handle the big ones.
There may be some regrets that don’t seem to improve, and they’re going to need a wee bit extra work. I call it “clearing your conscience.” This means it might take bringing this regret into the room and apologizing for your past mistake. Energy Psychology techniques are an excellent support here.
Make a fresh start.
At some point, you have to accept that the past has happened and you’ve done everything in your power to make amends for past mistakes. It’s now time to turn the page and accept those events as part of your story. They’ve all contributed to making you who you are today. Being grateful for those experiences lets you move on and truly forgive yourself.
Be realistic and be kind to yourself.
When we learned how to ride a bike, most of us realized it would probably take a few tries before achieving perfection. New behavior and thinking patterns are no different. They’re both skills. Ease up on yourself while you’re on a new learning curve. Realize that you’re going to make some mistakes. We all do.
Make a shift toward self-love.
The last step in building self-esteem is shifting toward loving yourself. Think kind and loving thoughts toward yourself and show yourself some compassion. If we can learn to think of ourselves as our best friend, to speak to ourselves with loving kindness, and put ourselves as a priority, it reaffirms that we believe we are worth it. Engage in coaching if you need some outside perspective in this area. Surround yourself with caring and supportive people.
May these 10 steps help you on your own journey to self-forgiveness.