Forgiveness is just another name for freedom.– Byron Katie
During my studies in clinical psychology, life coaching, and personal development I learned that forgiveness is important and being able to forgive others essential. What was left out is the most important aspect of forgiveness which is forgiving yourself.
Yet, in my lifetime I have done and said things I later regretted and felt awful about. I continually beat myself up over these things and convinced myself I was a “bad” person for behaving that way. The guilt over these situations and the shame I felt about them caused me to become depressed and embarrassed. I was disappointed in myself and my self-esteem was in the toilet.
After many years of feeling shame and guilt, I became very ill and wondered what was causing the illness.
I took the time to notice that my self-talk was focused on criticizing and blaming myself. On top of that, I was treating my body poorly with too much food and alcohol. I often started fights with people close to me for no reason and engaged in many self-sabotaging behaviors. One time I felt so much rage I scared myself. At that point, I was not just feeling guilty. I felt bad about who I was.
I tried to figure out why I was feeling this way even though I had fully for-given others. Then one day I began to journal the feelings I was having about myself and realized I had not done any self-forgiveness. I knew that to be emotionally healthy I had to have complete peace of mind and be fully in love with myself.
I created a process to recognize and admit I had harmed people and decided that instead of blaming myself I would create a way to forgive myself and have compassion for my human experience. I decided to let my toxic behaviors go and to give myself the same forgiveness I had given others. As I forgave myself more and more each day, I felt more connected to the people in my life. I felt a release of pain in my mind and in my body. It is clear that not forgiving myself had caused me to become ill and the less self-righteous I became and the more I forgave myself, the more love, kindness, and compassion I had for others. I found that as I shifted from self-hatred to self-love, I felt more and more freedom and my physical body became healthier. I share this process in my book “About to Break: The Path.
Many people, like me, have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused and carry shame and guilt with them, consciously or unconsciously. I have come to see that the more I become aware of my feelings and the more I forgive myself the less I beat myself up over the experiences I have had.
I now know that self-compassion connects me to my human experience.
We all make some wrong choices and hold regrets as part of our experience. There isn’t a person on the planet who hasn’t “harmed” another by deed or tongue. We all share this trait and we are all connected. Knowing you are not alone you can choose to let your self-defeating beliefs and behaviors go. Otherwise, you will carry them the rest of your life and have mental and potentially physical suffering as well.
I suggest you take the time to journal about your mistakes and understand that you mostly made them from a place of unconscious behaviors. You are not broken, you are whole and complete, a beautiful bright shining diamond, perfect with all your imperfections, just as I am. After you write your mistakes, read your journal. Then send love to yourself knowing you did the best you could at the moment you made those mistakes. Take a few minutes and honor your beautiful human behaviors and forgive yourself just as you would open your heart to forgive another.
If this process isn’t working for you, stop for a minute and ask, “Why would I choose to not love and forgive myself?” Spending time and energy while intentionally choosing to continue a pattern of being unloving towards your-self stops you from enjoying life, getting all the juice you can from your human experience, and it can cause health issues.
Step up. Allow yourself to let go of your guilt, resentment, and shame.
I found that when I truly began loving myself my self-respect increased as did my self-confidence and self-esteem. My health improved. My relationships improved and even my income improved. I also noticed I am not repeating the same mistakes because I allowed myself to become aware of my behaviors. I no longer have guilt or shame about the way I acted or what I said. I forgave myself and let it all go.